"There is rhythm to being a farm girl.
It is the rhythm of working hard when there is work to be done.
It is the rhythm of finding joy in the "doing" of the work.
It is also the rhythm of slowing down to enjoy each moment."
Be sure to visit Lori's blog to see what Friday Farm Girls is all about!
Last week, I posted about freezing bananas. This week it's all about grapes!
On our end-of-September trip to Stovers U-Pick in Michigan (read the details here), we picked apples--lots of apples. And then we heard someone comment about the raspberries. So Jacob picked a pint of those. Then we saw grapes. So we picked a bunch of bunches. (We also picked acorn and butternut squash.)
But enough of that. We ended up with the following on our counter:
It was a mixture of Concord grapes, champagne grapes, and green grapes. I checked my Ball canning book and found a recipe for "grape preserves without added pectin." I had never made/canned grape preserves (or any preserves) before, so I figured this was a good first recipe to try.
The recipe called for Concord grapes, but I figured a mixture would be fine. First, Joseph and I picked every grape off its vine, and placed them all in the colander to wash off.
Then came the longest hour I have ever spent at my kitchen counter. Joseph and I squeezed every grape, shooting the inner pulp into one pot, and placing the skins in another. This is an important step, in order to save and use the skins, but also to get rid of the seeds while saving the pulp. Below is the pot of pulp, before and during simmering on the stove.
Once the pulp was softened, we put it all through the food mill to remove the seeds.
The food mill awaits
To the pot of skins, we added enough water to cover (I think I added too much; more on that later). Then we simmered them as well.
Meanwhile, Joseph measured out the sugar (we used cane juice crystals) we would need once the pulp and skins were ready. Um, it was a lot of sugar. Very sweet. (More on that later...)
Joseph put the sugar in a large glass measuring bowl, and then we waited for pulp and skins to come to a boil. I decided I wanted smooth grape preserves, so I used my immersion blender to puree the skins. The recipe called for us to bring the whole mixture to a boil, and boil it until it reached the gel stage, or 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Which it did. But it didn't pass the "spoon test" for the gel stage--meaning it didn't sheet off the spoon. What to do? We let it boil five more minutes. 220 degrees. Still no sheeting. The Ball canning book did not specify how much time this would take... We let it boil five more minutes. Ditto on no sheeting. I finally shrugged, and figured we'd just go ahead and can it (by now the water bath canner, jars, and seals were ready to go).
Waiting for the to reach gel stage
In all, we successfully canned ten half-pints of very sweet grape preserves. Or, I should say, grape "sauce." Since one jar didn't seal, we put it in the fridge (after it cooled, of course), and it remained sauce-like. Hmm. Thomas said it was still good--we all agreed that it tasted delicious. After reading my friend Mary's blog post about canning crab apple jelly, I think we should have let the jam mixture boil for a lot longer than we did. Or, maybe I added too much water to the skins. Or, maybe using cane juice crystals instead of sugar affected its ability to "gel." Too many ifs in my experiment!!
But the preserves were canned and sealed, and I was done with it.
The boys all agreed that we would certainly use the grape "sauce" on toast and even sandwiches. Thomas encouraged us to "spread in thinly!" My smart comment here: My genius mind thought of another creative way to use it:
Sweet grape sauce on Andy's vanilla frozen custard!
This farm girl's taste buds were dancin'!! What a sweet experiment we had, and what a sweet time I spent in the kitchen with my precious Joseph. Next year, I'll be ready to try something different for my preserves, such as using agar agar as Lori blogged about. Let's see: ten jars--that means about once a month, I'll have a sweet reminder of this day, plus a sweet anticipation of trying this again next year!
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