Last year was our first fall in our new place. When I was out mowing the lawn, I could smell the fruity goodness of wild grapes. But my nose couldn’t quite lead me to the right place. Although I could see grape vines almost everywhere I turned, not a grape was to be seen. They were vexing me. And I vowed to get my revenge.
This year I was so determined not to miss the fall grapes that I started stalking vines in the spring. I watched which ones bloomed and had potential fruit. Then the kids and I took turns spying on them all summer.
I got very worried a couple of weeks ago when we were going away for the weekend to BloggyCon14. The grapes were starting to ripen, but weren’t ready to be picked. I worried, okay obsessed, that I was going to miss another season and the grapes would win again.
Luckily (for me, not the grapes), they were there and perfectly ripe when we got back.
The kids and I picked our first batch. I tottered up on a stone wall to reach the high ones while Number 2 risked multiple thorn pricks to get the ones that may have accidentally meandered into our neighbor’s yard. Number 1 just kept saying, “how are we going to explain this to daddy when you break a leg?” It seemed like the grapes were mocking me, just hanging out of my reach. But we managed to pick about 7 pounds.
That night we made our first grape jam (take that, you grapes). I pulled together a couple of recipes I found on the internet and came up with the following:
- Heat 5 pounds of grapes on medium heat while crushing to release juice (this also releases stress and tension). I don’t have a potato masher so I used a pastry mixer to chop and pop the grapes.
- Squish grapes through a food mill to separate out skins and seeds. (This wasn’t as hard as it sounded.)
- Add 5 cups of sugar and heat mixture while stirring until passes freezer test*. (I tried to only use 3-4 cups, but the grapes were really tart and required all 5.)
- Can the jam.
*Freezer test: Chill glass bowl in freezer. Add a teaspoon of jam onto bowl and put back in freezer for one minute. Jam is ready when you remove from freezer and it remains a mound when you tip the bowl slightly.
The jam was delicious.
I was pretty excited by my first attempt and had forgiven the grapes by this point. I mean, they did give everything they had! I still had 2 pounds of grapes leftover, so I recruited the kids again for another grape-picking session. We picked the rest of the grapes on our property that we could reach – batch number 2.
When Spouse came home from work one day, I was cooking up batch number 3. He just looked at me and said, “I thought you had picked all our grapes?” Number 1 ratted me out when he said, “She went up the street and picked them off the side of the road.” They both gave me looks of consternation.
Sadly, I am out of grapes in my area, although I did spy some at the soccer fields. I can’t wait until next year. I am going to be scouting grapes all over town!