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Muscadine Grapes: Unexpected Bounty!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

Big, juicy muscadine grapes!

 

I got a text message from a niece recently, because she saw that I had made scuppernong jelly, and I had commented that my usual foraging locations were not productive this year, so I had to purchase the grapes at the local farmer’s market. She and her husband had just moved back to my area recently and she discovered that the property has a large grape arbor in the back yard. Would I like to come by and pick some grapes? Absolutely!!!

I have an 18 month old grandson and she has a 13 month old baby, so we arranged a play date and grape picking get together. A couple of days later, she mentioned that they had friends over this past weekend and they had picked a big bag of the grapes, but she thought there were more available. *sigh* Well, I guessed the grapes would be pretty sparse. After a little playtime inside with the babies, we headed outside…hmmm…there’s a cluster of ripe grapes, and a few more, and more…and I realized that there was no shortage of grapes here.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

Kids outside by the grape arbor.

I filled a 2 gallon pail and there were plenty left! After another week, there will be more ripened and ready to pick. I have weighed what I picked, and I have 11 pounds, 6 ounces!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

Nice haul of muscadine grapes!

So, now I have to decide what to do with the grapes…if I need them all for a batch of wine, or if I will have enough to make some jelly, too. I may have to go back next week for a smaller batch to do jelly. I’ll be reviewing my last two wine batch blogs to see what I did with them. Two years ago, I did a muscadine red wine that turned out pretty dry, due to the yeast I chose. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/day-144-muscadine-wine/  Last year, I did a muscadine/blueberry wine that was a little lighter/softer, but still fairly dry. https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/starting-blueberry-muscadine-wine/  I would like to do one that is a little sweeter, but I still don’t want to do the overly sweet wines that are normally associated with muscadines. Also, for last years wine, I bought a pH test kit and something to adjust it, if necessary…have to track that down and read up on it again. I also rented a wine bottle corker and bought bona fide wine bottles and corks. The first batch was put into beer bottles. I might have to open a bottle of each…for research.  I have also read that sweeter homemade wines don’t preserve as well, so just a little sweetness would be good. More to follow after research and when I get time to work on it.

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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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2015 Muscadine-Grenache Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Grenache-Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I foraged some grapes again this year. Initially, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get enough to do anything with, when I found that my usual “big producing spot” was practically bare this year. Luckily, a couple of other spots were very productive. I wound up making a 5 gallon batch of muscadine-blueberry wine ( I had eleven pounds of fresh blueberries in the freezer.) The rest of my grapes sat in the fridge for weeks. I knew I would run out of time to enter anything into competition at the state fair this year, so I just didn’t rush.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

Grenache, front. Muscadines, rear.

In the meantime, my wife bought some Grenache grapes for some function and never used them, after I told her they were not seedless.

Grenache grapes.

Grenache grapes.

So, I wound up with about 3 lbs of muscadine grapes and about 2 lbs of the Grenache. The grenache have a kind of mild Concord flavor, so I thought they would just add a little intensity to the grape juice.

I followed my recipe from 2013 ( https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/wild-muscadine-grape-jelly/ ) and wound up with 8 1/2 pint jars and a single 4 oz jar.

The results!

The results!

Should be enough to give a few away and get through the Winter.

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My Dad’s Rolls

Dad's Yeast Rolls...none better!

Dad’s Yeast Rolls…none better!

It’s been decades since I’ve had a yeast roll made by my Dad. Well, he IS 88 years old and hasn’t really cooked in many years, to my knowledge. There was a time when he did, from time to time. In fact, I got really tired of his Shrimp Fried Rice (though it was really good!). His rolls were always welcome though. I tried to Google a recipe last thanksgiving and that recipe failed pretty miserably. So, I asked for the recipe soon after. What I got was an old recipe notecard with ingredients and pretty sparse instructions. I don’t know where the recipe originated. The card says to cut the dough in strips, stack in 3’s and “cut 1/2 inch and butter”. That’s not what my Dad did…I have no idea where he got his technique, but I like it. I’ll go over it in the recipe. Anyway, I made the recipe for the first time tonight and I feel like I have tasted my Dad’s rolls for the first time in decades. Kind of a big deal. Thanks, Dad!

Ingredients for Dad's Yeast Rolls.

Ingredients for Dad’s Yeast Rolls.

Dad’s Yeast Rolls

Dry ingredients:

4-1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

1/4 cup Sugar

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 cup Crisco Shortening

1 pkg. Dry Yeast

Wet ingredients:

1/4 cup Water, warm

1 cup Buttermilk, lukewarm

2 Eggs, slightly beaten

Melted Butter for brushing

Directions: Proof the yeast in the warm water. Meanwhile, add the dry ingredients to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Blend the dry ingredients briefly. Add the Crisco and blend on medium speed until incorporated. Combine the wet ingredients and stir together. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

The dough coming together.

The dough coming together.

When the dough comes together, switch to the dough hook attachment and run on low speed for 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and not sticky.

Low speed with the dough hook.

Low speed with the dough hook.

Grease the bowl or spray it lightly with nonstick spray. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and place in a warm draft-free place, until dough doubles in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Time to rise!

Risen!

Punch dough down…

Punching down the dough.

Punching down the dough.

…and roll out into a circle, about 1/4″ thick. Cut into 2″ circles.

Rolled and cut dough.

Rolled and cut dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Fold the dough circles in half, using a slight pulling motion to stretch a little. Place on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter.

Folded and brushed with butter.

Folded and brushed with butter.

Heat oven to 400F and bake in the center of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter again.

Baked and butter brushed again. Mmm!

Baked and butter brushed again. Mmm!

Serve warm! These rolls are great with jam/jelly or gravy, too. Enjoy!

 

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North Carolina State Fair 2014…First Place!

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My 2014 batch of Crab Apple Jelly is officially a Blue Ribbon award winner! I got first place in the category this year! I entered three items this year: the crab apple jelly, muscadine grape jelly and a peach salsa. Three entries and one blue ribbon…not bad, not bad at all!

Here’s the blog entry with the process: https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/2014-crab-apple-jelly/

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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]

Ingredients

Muscadines

Muscadines

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

Directions

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.

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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!!!

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