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Monday, October 10, 2011

Domestic Goddess

Kind of.  Not really.  But sometimes...

Once in a while, I get the notion that I want to do something homey.  Like cook.  Or iron.  Actually, forget the ironing.  I can't do that without making things worse.  I am a good cook, though, if I must say so, myself.  (My lovely boyfriend agrees, at least to my face.)

A few weeks ago, we were visiting my boyfriend's mom, who has grapevines trellised over her backyard fence.  She's been talking about getting the fence fixed, which means that the grapes must go.  I think it's tragic.

So, to console myself, I offered to harvest the abundance of concord grapes before *sigh* they are no more.

Approximately 10 pounds later, I have no idea what, exactly, I'm going to do with all of these grapes, which are characterized by an amazing flavor and an equally large seed in each one.  I froze some of them last year, but never got around to actually eating them.  This year, they sat in my fridge for a week and a half, threatening to shrivel up before I got to them.

I figured that the most practical thing would be to make jelly.

So, I presumed that I should cook them down.

But first...

Pick each.  And every.  One.  From their bunches.

Hours later (not too much of an exaggeration), I've got the grapes in a stock pot on low heat.  I allow them to cook, assuming that, like tomatoes, the skins will eventually fall off and you can either strain them out or they will disintegrate.  They don't disintegrate.  Or fall off.  Nor do the seeds go willingly from the flesh.  And when they've finished cooking down, you've got a mush of hotter-than-hell grape juice that smells delicious, but threatens to both scald and stain you (and every fiber of clothing you are wearing).

By the time this mash has cooled enough to maybe handle, it's really stinking late.  So, the grape mash goes into the fridge in the stock pot.

Step 2, the following day.  No time.

The day after that.  No time.

The day after that.  Ah, some time.  Run the grape mash through a strainer.  Which turns out to be very ineffective.  It actually requires pressing the grape mash against the strainer many, many, many times, only to be left with something that's still half grape juice, but refuses to be strained any further.  I find that squeezing the shit out of it by hand works, though.  And I even have enough foresight to wear some disposable gloves so as not to end up with purple hands.

The result...grape juice and what looks like bat guano, complete with seeds.  It's disappointingly little grape juice, too.

Grape guano.
Or, so I thought.

I find a recipe for easy jelly online (no, I didn't do that BEFORE I decided to do this), which calls for 3 cups of juice.  Check.  5 1/4 cups sugar (!).  Check.  And pectin.  Easy enough to get.  Cool!  I can do this!

I go to the store and purchase a dozen half pint jelly jars, some pectin, and canning equipment (a canning pot, tongs, jar grasper, jar opener, funnel, magnet...actually a pretty good setup, it turns out).  I come home and measure out my grape juice.  I have...12 cups of grape juice.  Shit.  I need more of...everything.

I go to the store and get more jars and pectin (regular instead of instant this time) and sugar.  Did you know that one 4-pound bag of sugar is actually about 9 cups?   ONLY 9 cups.  Then, I set to work.

Add pectin to grape juice, bring to boil, stir in sugar.  Whoah...  That's a lot of sugar.  This is going to require more jars.

I go to the store.  Get more jars.  And finishing jarring my grape jelly (after washing each jar by hand, then running through the dishwasher).  I even processed the jars.  Because there is no damned way we're eating 30 and 1/3 jars of jelly within 3 weeks.  And each and every one of those jars sealed!  (Hooray!  I wasn't entirely confident about this.)

It actually turned out quite good.  I just hope we don't get botulism.  Do you suppose I should hold off on giving any of it away?

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