I was very lucky to grow up with four wonderful Grandparents. I have so many great memories of spending time with them as a child and adult that watching them leave this earth has been some of the most difficult times of my life. Lately, I have been thinking about my mom's mom a lot. Her name was Lucile McMahon, and she survived the Great Depression. My grandparents lived on a self-sustainable farm way before that was en vogue or even defined. Each summer we would spend one Saturday freezing corn and one Saturday cleaning chickens. I could tell you horror stories about the cleaning chickens, but I will spare you. Let's just say my family learned early on that I was better suited for the inside work on those days. And in case you were wondering, chickens really do run around after their heads have been chopped off. We found it best to hang them on a close line, but I digress.
My grandparents also had peach trees and a grape vineyard, so grandma would do a lot of canning and she would always make jelly. I loved picking the grapes and helping with the jelly. Nothing in the world smells as good as concord grapes cooking up into juice.
A few weekends ago, our family took a day trip to this historic town not too far from us. We wandered around the historic homes and state park, then we made our way to the town's winery. I really don't like too many wines, but it is fun to try a sample or two. When I walked into the winery, I smelled that smell, instantly recognizable from my past - concord grapes cooking. Even better, I found some concord grapes for sale! I know I keep emphasizing the concord variety, but it does matter. This farm girl would not consider using any other grapes for jelly. I am sure someone out there has, but it sounds crazy to me.
The box of grapes looked pretty small, too small to make a batch of jelly, so I had to ask if they were good for eating. These grapes were so valuable to my family that apparently we weren't allowed to eat any. All grapes were used for juice or jelly. Yes, I could eat them, and they were great, but I just had to try to make some jelly even if it were only a small batch.
Typically, my family uses Sure Jell in all of their jellies, but I did not have any on hand, and I didn't have the spare $1.86 in my budget (Dave Ramsey) until the next payday. So, I did what my grandma would do. I improvised. Fortunately, I have one tool she didn't - the Internet. After much searching, I found a recipe at epicurean.com that didn't require the Sure Jell.
With much excitement, I cooked the grapes. After they cooled, Alex and I ran them through the food mill. Then I cooked the juice and sugar until it jelled. The smell was heavenly. I wish our computers had smell-o-vision so I could share it with you. I eagerly toasted a piece of bread to see if the recipe worked, and it did! It made two beautiful pint jars of jelly, which was perfect because I only had two jars on hand too!
So, this weekend, we traveled back down to the winery to buy more grapes. I have decided to make the jelly for Christmas gifts, and I will be using Sure Jell in this batch. It really shortens your cooking time and gives more consistent results. I have also budgeted for some cute little jelly jars for the gifts. I love thinking about my Grandma while making the jelly, and I am so lucky to have learned so much from her. Some of the things she taught me, but many of them, my mom taught me because of her. It is a great legacy.
Now, since I have 16 pounds of grapes in my refrigerator, I should really get started. The grapes won't cook themselves!