Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

It is unfortunate  that my previous blog host lost all of my posts from August 31 through early October. Fourteen in all! Luckily, I DID save recipes on my computer. If you’re interested, “pin” this one or save it for next August/September when the muscadines are in season again! Muscadines are the native grapes in North America. This would have been the only grapes available to our settlers for wine-making and jelly. It would be a long time before “table grapes” and European wine grapes made it to this continent. I have located a few secret spots to forage enough wild grapes to make a couple of batches of jelly each year. I love the idea of foraging and using FREE fruit! You can, however, get cultivated muscadines (and scuppernongs) in grocery stores and, in some areas, at local farmer’s markets. To be technically accurate, both the purple and the green grapes are “scuppernongs” and the purple ones, specifically, are “muscadines”. Typically though, we use the term “scuppernong” for the green ones. Aaaanyway, they’re both delicious and make great snacks, jelly and wine! I haven’t tried making wine yet. Next year!

To eat these grapes as a snack, you point the end of the grape where the vine was attached into your lips and you squeeze the grape, so that it pops the insides into your mouth. Squeeze the skin for any remaining juice and throw it away. Now, the pulp is a little blob with a couple of seeds. It can be sucked through your teeth to remove the seeds. Spit out the seeds and eat the pulp. A little odd, but fun and delicious!

For making jelly, you cook the whole grapes. The skins give the muscadine juice a beautiful purple color.  This jelly was entered into competition at the 2013 NC State Fair and came in second place! This is a big category and I was very pleased to win a red ribbon! (I also won a red ribbon for homemade ketchup!)

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I wanted to get this post back on the books, spread the recipe and encourage everyone out there that might enjoy foraging for grapes or making jelly. Just make sure that you only forage where you have permission or don’t need it . I’m also currently trying to get a couple of grape vines to survive on my property. So far, the dogs have thwarted my attempts. I have a couple outside of their area now…I hope they make it through the Winter! Now for the jelly recipe. Enjoy!

Muscadine Grape Jelly  Originally published 9/5/13  [2nd Place, 2013 NC State Fair]




7 cups Muscadine Grapes

3 cups Water, plus extra, if needed

7 cups Sugar, white, granulated

1 box Sure-Jell Pectin (6 Tablespoons, if using bulk)

½ teaspoon Butter


Put the grapes and 3 cups of water into a sauce pan, 5 quarts or larger, on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and continue for 10 minutes, stirring often.


Using a potato masher, mash the grapes.

Mashing the cooked grapes

Mashing the cooked grapes

Prepare a colander over a large pot or bowl with 3 or 4 layers of cheesecloth. Dampen the cloth with water first and wring out. Make sure you use plenty of extra overhang on the cheesecloth, as you will be gathering it into a bag shortly. (If you have a “Jelly Bag and Frame” set-up, you can use that instead.)

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Pour the grape mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander that is set over a pot or bowl for draining. Next, gather the cheesecloth into a bag and tie with kitchen twine.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Make the tie so that there is a loop you can use to hang the bag.

Hang the bag from a kitchen cabinet knob and position the bowl or pot under it. Allow to gravity drain for an hour or so. When cool enough to handle, squeeze any remaining juice from the bag. Some recipes say not to squeeze the bag, but this is a dark jelly and clarity isn’t really a major factor. If you want to wait a few extra hours and waste some juice (which equals flavor!), then go ahead.

5 cups of juice...look at the color!

5 cups of juice…look at the color!

Once all the juice is extracted, pour into measuring cups and, if necessary, add just enough water to equal exactly 5 cups. If you need to take a break in the process, now is the time to do it. The juice can be refrigerated overnight or 24 hours.

Prepare water bath canner set-up and supplies. Sterilize jars and heat lids in water, just below the simmering point. Next, in a 5 quart or larger sauce pan, bring the 5 cups of juice to a boil. Add the pectin and whisk well. [Side note: I use pectin powder because it requires less cooking and, I think, a more true muscadine flavor.] Add ½ t. butter to reduce foaming. Pour in all the sugar at once and quickly whisk until it is all incorporated. As soon as the mixture returns to a full rolling boil, set timer for one minute and continue to whisk constantly. Be careful to keep from boiling over! As soon as time is up, remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Canning the jelly

Canning the jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Ladle the hot jelly into jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Clean rims with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place lids and threaded rings on the jars and screw down the rings until snug. Place jars in the water bath canner with enough boiling water to cover the jars by 2 inches. When canner returns to a good boil, set timer for 5 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars to a cloth lined counter and allow seals to firm for 24 hours. Check seals, remove rings, label and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Any lids that don’t seal can be refrigerated and used right away.

Makes 8 to 9 – 1/2 pint jars. I would have 9 ready plus a 4oz jar, if you have one, just in case. If you have leftover, you can always put it into a small storage container or glass and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Peanut butter and jelly? Yes, please!!! Enjoy!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!


13 thoughts on “Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

  1. Hey there, I’m in Cary, too!

    How in the world did you get your jelly so nice and clear? Mine is deep, DEEP purple, and you can barely see through the edge of the jar.

    I followed a similar recipe, but I ran my grapes through the slicer blade of my food processor to get maximum dicing, but low damage to the seeds. I then simmered the sliced grapes in the pot and mashed them, just like you did.

    I did two things different. One, I didn’t add extra water to the grapes when simmering? And two, I processed the pulp and seeds through a food mill. When I got done and washed out the glop from the food mill, all that was left was pale, transparent skins and seeds.

    The juice was *incredibly* thick. So much so, that I ran it through a strainer first. The result was a huge blob of grape solids that I rolled around in the strainer to get every drop of juice. I then ran the juice through a jelly bag to get good, clean juice. I emptied the glop from the jelly bag into the strainer again to get more solids out, ran that juice through the bag again and got more juice.

    The grape glop got a cup of honey added to it, and I spread it on the fruit leather inserts for my dehydrator. I got 2 pounds of fruit leather out of about 7 gallons of grapes.

    My jelly is *delicious*, and has excellent Muscadine flavor, but it’s so very deep purple, so unlike yours. I read the .pdf for the NC state fair, and it looks like mine wouldn’t have even come close, as it’s definitely *not* sparkling. But hey, it’s tasty!

    Congrats on the win!

    • Seven GALLONS…wow! I think I would be making some wine!I’m not sure why my jelly comes out with the color and clarity that it does. I wish I could regulate that! Last year, my jelly did not win a ribbon, but had a very dark purple color. The judges commented that it had a beautiful color, but was a little weak on flavor. I increased the amount of grapes and I think I achieved more flavor. (I haven’t seen the comments for this year, yet). It was lighter this year, though. Maybe simmering longer kills some of the color? I do NOT follow the conventional wisdom that says not to squeeze the bag…I want all that flavor!
      I don’t have a food mill…would like one for my Kitchenaid Mixer! I make apple butter with pulp from crabapples, but have just been throwing away my grape pommace. I think most of my pulp breaks down and goes in with the juice…maybe that dilutes the color some. Once cooked, I had considered the cooked, squeezed skins to be lifeless, but I guess they are edible after cooking them. Without the pulp, though, they might not be very tasty…? I had never considered dehydrating them into fruit leather! I just bought a china cap strainer with a stand and wooden pestle off Craig’s List for $10! I have been using a regular mesh strainer and the back of a stainless steel serving spoon to get my crabapple pulp. Maybe I’ll try this on the grapes next year! By the way, do you do anything with tomatoes? Have you tried dehydrating the processed seed/skins and grinding them in a coffee grinder/spice mill? The powder is like instant tomato paste!
      Good luck with your jelly!

      • Oh no, I don’t use the skins, I throw those out. But I process the heck out of them to get every last bit of grape flavor.

        I believe that wine makers call it “must”, and it’s the solids on the inside of the skins; the stuff that holds all the color and flavor. Vinters add a campden enzyme tablet to the bucket of crushed grapes for the specific purpose of digesting the must off the skins. I guess I just do it manually.

        I use the strainer to separate the must from the juice, then the jellybag to clarify the juice. And yes, seven gallons of grapes, maybe ten, the cooler was 75% full.

        I made six gallons of grape drink for Thanksgiving. Add two cups of grapes to a half-gallon mason jar, add 1 cup of sugar, fill to 1/2″ from top with boiling water, process 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place for several months, and the color deepens. I made about 20 half-pints of jelly, and 2 gallons of juice for later…”experiments”. :9

      • That grape “drink” sounds interesting! It doesn’t turn alcoholic?So, did you forage, grow, purchase or do a “pick your own” kind of place to get that many grapes?

  2. A friend of mine out in Wilson bought a house, and it already had a huge garden, a pond, and a full row of Muscadines and Scuppernongs. She asked me if I wanted them, so I went and cleaned them all out! The Scups weren’t ready yet, but I got the Musks and a 5 gallon bucket of gleaned sweet potatoes from the field next door.

    So I guess you could say I scrounged them. 😉

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    • Hi Jessi! Yes, muscadines and scuppernongs are pretty tough to pop when raw. I use a potato masher and stir and mash while the grapes are boiling. After they boil for a couple minutes, I find I can reduce to a simmer. I like to see that all the grapes popped and the pulp has pretty much broken down. Cheers!

  6. Whitney says:

    I want to try this recipe as if heard so many yummy things about muscadine jelly/jam, but I have never seen muscadine grapes for sale in FL, even in fresh markets. Are they very season specific? Is there some where I can buy previously canned grapes, and would that work for this recipe.. or do they need to be fresh?

    • Hi Whitney, yes Muscadines are seasonal and regional. I think they range throughout the Southeast…not sure what the Western and northern cutoffs are…and Florida may be too hot? But so close, you should be able to find some, I would think, in season. That season is usually towards the end of August through about mid September. I can find them in farmer’s markets and in some grocery stores then (and sometimes can find some wild ones to forage). They can, I am told, be frozen and I feel sure they would be fine to use in the jelly recipe. Often, if you find someone at a farmer’s market selling the grapes, you can find the juice for sale…but it’s expensive. I assume you could start with that and save a lot of hassle, but I’ve never tried it. I have not, however ever seen any for sale commercially in a frozen, canned or juiced form. You might have to make a deal with someone north of you and trade some citrus! I imagine that you would only have to get up into Georgia to find some. Most likely will need to make plans for next year, at this point. Thanks for reading and good luck!

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