Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Muscadine and Scuppernong Jelly

Grape jelly made with the Southern Muscadine and Scuppernong grape.

Muscadine and Scuppernong Jelly

It's muscadine time! Muscadines are the native Southern grape, ripening here in the South during the late summer and early fall months. You'll find both muscadine and scuppernong grapes right now and through about October at U-pick farms, local farmer's markets and produce stands and many local grocery markets in the South.

They aren't anything like the typical California table grape you see in the grocery store, growing in much smaller bunches than what we're all accustomed to seeing. They are rather large grapes, nearly the size of a golf ball, and so dark purple in color that they are almost black, containing very large seeds and tough skins.

The skins, though tough, are edible, and loaded with nutritional benefits, but to eat out of hand, most folks simply bite into it a bit, then squeeze the pulp of the fruit into their mouth, spitting out the large seeds and discarding the skin.

The muscadine grape has a somewhat sweet and tart, earthy, almost musky taste and fragrance when raw, but they do have a powerful, intense grape flavor, making them a marvelous choice for a tasty jelly or jam, and for sauces and syrups, pies and cobblers, and even wine... if you're so inclined.

Photo Credit
The more greenish bronze version is actually the original muscadine cultivar, most commonly associated with North Carolina and earning the name scuppernong from the region along the Scuppernong River, where it was first found. The scuppernong is actually the state fruit of North Carolina and may even well be the oldest cultivated grapevine in the world, dating back at least 400 years.

Photo Credit
Grown most often on farms these days, there was a time in the past that many a Southerner had a vine either growing wildly, or purposefully weaved atop an arbor or a high arch in their backyard, if for nothing else but the sole purpose of jelly making. Tarps, laid out in the hot sun to capture grapes falling from vigorously shaken vines, making for many mutually nostalgic memories and certainly, the delicious jelly that followed spread over hot, buttered biscuits or spooned alongside a meat entree.

Jam making requires a multi-step process beginning with peeling the grapes. The skins and pulp are first cooked separately, seeds strained out, then combined back together, cooked further, and frankly is just a little bit too much work for me. I rather like the process of jelly making for these grapes though, and for this recipe, you'll need about 3 quarts of muscadine grapes, or roughly 4-1/2 pounds, for a yield of about 5-1/2 cups of juice, or what will give you about 8 half pints of jelly.

I've seen this same ratio of 5 cups of juice with 7 cups of sugar made both with and without lemon juice, and using both liquid and powdered pectin. I've used both and I prefer the way the powdered version sets. Some recipes also add just a bit of butter, which is supposed to help counter the foaming. Several recipes I've seen don't even process the jelly, but I feel much safer processing it myself.

Most of you know I'm fairly new to the whole canning experience, and I have read that it's best to allow jellies and jams to sit for at least 4 weeks before using them so that they fully develop their flavor. I'll do that with the ones I'm gifting this Christmas of course, but who can resist breaking into one of them right away? Not me, and as you see from my photo at the top, I didn't even take the time to make a proper biscuit before I dug in, though I certainly made some soon after!

My recipe is based on the one from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center - better known as LSUAgCenter. Here's how to make it.

First things first is to make the juice. Remove any stems and discard blemished fruit from the muscadines, then add them to a large 8 to 10 quart pot. Run through several cycles of water until the water runs clear. Add 2 cups of fresh water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for for 20 minutes, using a pastry cutter or potato masher to crush the grapes periodically as they cook.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then gently work the pulp through a fine sieve, pressing out and retaining all of the juices. For the most clear jelly, and if you have the patience, line a large sieve with several layers of cheesecloth and allow the mixture to drip through on it's own, at least an hour or longer.

If you're not that picky about how clear your jelly is, just don't be too strenuous with working it through the sieve to avoid getting pulp in your jelly, and run it through a few times to remove as much of pulp as possible You should get at least 5-1/2 to 6 cups of juice - you'll need 5 cups for a batch of jelly. Discard or compost the solids. The juice may be refrigerated or frozen at this point for later use. You may also sweeten it to taste for a drinking juice.

To prepare jelly, return 5 cups of the juice to the pot and add the lemon juice. Stir in the pectin, and stirring occasionally, bring to a rolling boil - meaning one that cannot be stirred down. Add in all of the sugar, all at once, stirring to dissolve.

Bring back up to a rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, let rest for 5 minutes, then skim any foam off the top.

Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and process in a hot water boiling canner for 10 minutes. You should have about 8 half pint jars.

As always, with all canning recipes that you find here on my site, I have to add my caveat. Before proceeding with any recipe for canning or preserving on Deep South Dish, I advise you to always consult a professional canning resource for complete details on how to safely can foods, from start to finish, to make them pantry stable.

Let's go make some!

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Posted by on September 11, 2013
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