Oct 22, 2009

Processing Concord Grape Jelly and a Pom Wonderful Jelly

Just when I thought canning season was over.......My hubby was picking up his 5 gallons each of freshly pressed Riesling and Concord grape juice from our local winery, preparing for his next wine making adventure.  He was generously given an extra (free) gallon of Concord grape juice.  So I thought, hey, why not make some grape jelly? Can you imagine? Freshly pressed grape juice, no preservatives, no additives, not watered down, and someone else did ALL the work for you??? I think I'm on to something here and why didn't I think of this before?!?!?!?!?

While I was at it, I still had some of the Pom Wonderful juice leftover that I was wanting to do something with also. A friend and fellow blogger of mine Margarite, had made some beautiful Pom Wonderful jelly not to long ago. You can check out her freezer version here on her blog, Spryte's Place. So I told her I'd do some experimenting of my own. While I'm not a fan of freezer jellies and jams, simply because I do not have the storage space, I would try processing and canning some so we could compare notes.

So, because some of my foodie friends haven't canned anything before, I thought I'd make this blog post serve double duty and document the whole "water bath method" process for them. I did the grape jelly first, completing all of the steps, then I did the pomegranate jelly using the exact recipe and steps. As luck would have it, it worked out and set up beautifully. I will caution you however, if you use any other type of juice, you may want to look for recipes on the Ball canning site or consult the USDA guidelines because different fruits have different acidic and pectin levels, so not all recipes or fruit/sugar/pectin ratios are the same. In fact, if you haven't canned anything before, I strongly suggest you do some homework and give both a good thorough read first.

That said, here we go. Now, probably the most important step to canning jelly (or jam) is to be extremely organized. Really, it takes more time to sanitize and set everything up than it does to do the deed. Once you start cooking the jelly you cannot stop in midstream. Wash and sanitize all jars and handling equipment. You can do this in the dishwasher, or by hand, just be sure to rinse well with the hottest water and avoid touching the insides or rims of the jars once they’ve been sanitized. Set your jars on a large tray or cookie sheet that has been lined with a clean, old dish towel.   I also have a funnel, a magnetic wand (for fishing out lids) and jar tongs. You can get these in a small inexpensive kit, but really, I use my metal tongs when working with small jars. So the only extra piece of equipment (besides the canner & rack) that you'll probably need is the wide mouth funnel. (I'm just sayin')

Getting the jars, lids and rings ready:

Put lids and rings into a saucepan and bring to a boil, remove with tongs and lay out on the tray with the jars. Leave the hot water from that pan on the stove and set to simmer. (you’ll use this later) Put the jar rack in your canner and fill canner about 2/3 way with water. Bring to a boil, then lower back down to simmer and put the lid on to hold in the heat while you get the jelly ready. Also, go ahead and measure and pour your juice (only) into a stock pot.

Concord Grape Jelly Recipe

Yield: 8 cups (8 half-pint sized, 8oz jelly jars)

1 box (1.75 oz) Sure-Jel pectin
5 C fresh Concord grape juice
7 C white granulated sugar

Making the jelly:
Make sure all of your measurements are exact. Measure and level each cup up of sugar and pour into a large bowl and set to the side. Pour your juice into a stock pot and set the heat to medium. Stir in all of the pectin all at once. Stirring constantly (I use a heat-proof silicone spatula)the pectin mixture will start to thicken. Continue to stir and heat juice to a hard boil, one that cannot be stirred down. Add in the sugar all at once and stir constantly, until mixture comes back to a boil, again, one that cannot be stirred down. Boil and stir for one minute more. Remove pan from heat and skim off any excess foam with a spoon.

Quickly, while mixture is hot, fill jars using a ladle and a funnel fitted into jars. Fill to about 1/8 inch head space. (You need at least 1/8 inch in order for the vacuuming process to take place) Wipe off an drips on jar edges with a clean damp towel or damp paper towel. This is to insure a tight seal. Immediately place on all of the lids. Next, add all of the rings, but do not tighten fully, only “hand tighten” until just snug. (you'll tighten them again after processing)

Processing jars:
Place jars into the canning rack, be sure all are standing up right. Gently lower jars down into canner. Check again to make sure they are all upright and not tipping. The jars should be covered with at least 1 or 2 inches of water, while boiling. If necessary, use the hot water in the saucepan to add to the water in the canner so that the jars are completely covered. Put the lid on the canner and  bring water to a full boil, then set timer for 5 minutes. When done, raise rack with handles and rest on edges of canner. Using tongs or a jar handler, carefully place hot jars back onto towel lined tray.

Move tray to an out of the way spot, and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. You will soon hear “popping” sounds as the jars cool that indicate the vacuum process was a success. (this can happen immediately, or it may take awhile) After 24 hours, check all of the seals by pushing in onto the middle of each lid, it should be sunken down solid and not popping up and down. Now tighten the rings, or you can store jars without rings. You can reuse jars and rings, but not the seals. You have to use new seals only once because of the adhesive on them that helps create the seal.

If you have a jar(s) that didn’t seal, do not try to process it again using the same lid/seal, instead, just store that one in the fridge and use within 3 weeks. If you have more than one or two jars that did not seal, it's better that you reprocess them with new lids. Your jelly is ready to use after the 24 hours, however, some jelly may take up to a week to set. If it doesn't set up and gel, read the insert in the pectin box, there is a method for re-cooking and reprocessing. Properly sealed and processed jelly will store up to a year in a cool dry place.

The grape jelly is on the left and the pomegranate on the right. Isn't it beautiful? I have to admit, I was a bit nervous for the pomegranate to set up, but it ended up with the same texture as the grape even though the grape actually took just a few days longer to set up.

As I was going through this whole process I was thinking....what was I thinking? Why go through all of this trouble? Until we tasted it. I can assure you, the taste of both types of jelly is out of this world. Certainly better than any store bought brand. When my hubby slathered his biscuit and took the first bite, he turned to me and said, "it tastes just like my grandma used to make". I almost cried, I knew then, it was truly a success!

Oh, and FYI.....hubby has been busy getting the wine well on it's way. It's happily bubbling along in the primary phase. I'll be documenting the whole process, from fresh juice to bottle, for your viewing pleasure. It will take some time, maybe 2 or 3 months before bottling so I'll wait until after the holidays to blog it.

Meanwhile, I'm working like mad on a Halloween cake project that I'll be entering into a couple of online contests that I'll be (shamefully) asking begging for your online votes....so please check back!


Mom on the Run said...

POM is a new favorite of mine. I have used it to cook some very tasty chicken dishes with but the jelly looks amazing!

Good luck on your halloween cake!

Michele said...

It looks like my grandma's too! We used to grow the grapes. I never watched her make it (not sure why) but I wouldn't eat anyone else's jelly until I was in my late teens and she stopped making it.

Bob said...

Awesome. Can't beat that fresh juice for jelly! My mom used to make jelly/jam from the berries she grew in the garden. Good times.

Spryte said...

Those look AMAZING!!! I'm still enjoying my rather thin POM jelly. =)

Cathy said...

Your jelly looks terrific! I don't think I'm even going to attempt it until I lose this awful kitchen I'm in right now, but I'm bookmarking your post for future reference...I've never processed anything. Well, maybe a couple of thoughts....

Patti T. said...

I made concord grape jelly once, when I was still in high school. It seemed like such a pain. Your way sure would have been a lot easier. Your jelly jars look like jewels being bathed in sunlight. Awesome.

Danielle said...

YUM!!! I've never made anything other than freezer jam (I'm sceered). both jellies aer beautiful...reminds me of a stained glass winder...window? you're influencing me too much LOL
Sooo...the infamous cake with plumbing and electrical is going to be unvailed soon?

Donna-FFW said...

Yes, these do look beautiful. Canning has been on my list f things to try for quite some time. This post is surely a great tutorial. Thanks!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Awesome!!!! I have never made Jelly before, only Jam... Cause I don't want to go through the juicing phase... How cool that the winery gave you extra. YAY! Can someone pass me a biscuit?

Karine said...

Your jelly looks amazing! You are lucky to get all these amazing products :)