Sunday, November 22, 2020

A New Twist for Making Mustang Grape Jam or Jelly

Many years ago my family tried making jam from our wild mustang grapes that grow along an old farm fence, with varying degrees of success. I wanted a low sugar jam but even when using low sugar pectin, getting the correct consistency eluded me. I was not an accomplished jelly maker, in fact making a jam from my grapes was my first and second attempts at it. Mustang grape seeds are difficult to separate from the pulp and the skins and juice can irritate one's fingers. My son was especially sensitive. After a couple of seasons with only so so success and life getting rather busy, we did not make any again until this year. The years in between saw me give grapes to others who were interested in trying or were used to working with mustang grapes.

This past summer we had a very large harvest coming in and for a variety of reasons, the usual suspects could not take the time to put up jelly or make other things like ice cream from my grapes, so I went in search of what I hoped would be a fool proof recipe. I stumbled on one recipe that intriqued me. It used chia seeds instead of pectin to set the jam. It was not designed specifically for mustang grapes but I thought I should be able to adapt it.

While the seeds still took an annoying amount of time to separate from the grape pulp, this method worked very well. The basic steps I took were to measure out 12 ounces of grapes after removing them from their stems and then separating the pulps into one saucepan and the skins into another one. Each saucepan was simmered for 5-10 minutes while covered and pressed with a slotted spoon regularly, especially the pulps to help free the seeds. Before beginning to simmer the pulps, I added 2-3 Tbsp of water to keep them from burning and help break down the pulps so they would release their seeds more easily. Additional water may be needed during simmering. After the skins have softened and released some juice I poured the contents of that saucepan into my VitaMix and blended until mostly smooth. After the pulps simmered I separated out the seeds before adding the skin mixture and 3 Tbsp of honey. Once everything was stirred together I added 2 Tbsp of chia seeds, stirred until incorporated and let set for 5 minutes before putting the jam into jars.

I hope to get faster at separating the seeds from the pulp, but this recipe is definitely something I look forward to making again next summer when my grapes begin ripening around the 4th of July.

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