Friday, September 10, 2010

Jelly ~ Just 30 Pints


I remember seeing the wild muscadine and scuppernong vines in the North Houston woods where we romped as children, but was told they were poisonous and DO NOT TOUCH! Oh, I did touch them, but only to pick and throw at my younger brothers in fun.

After moving to Alabama, I noticed people growing and selling them.  I will eat enough of them in a bowl to make myself sick. It was in 1996 that I made the first batch of jelly.

For the past two years, the jelly didn't make. First, I made the mistake of trying sugar-free Sure-Jell. Then, last year the mistake was trying to hurry and process too many grapes at one time as they were spoiling. Both years, a gooey mess.

This year, it was only scuppernongs that we processed. The results produce a lighter pink jelly instead of the dark purple you will get with the muscadines. Nonetheless, the taste is about the same. Delish. Not quite as sweet as the grape jelly you pick up at the grocery store, but it is absolutely our favorite. We very rarely ever buy jelly.

I cannot take credit for 30 pints of the most beautiful scuppernong jelly in the pantry. Michelle handled the entire affair. It seems that we are passing this cultural past-time down another generation. My Grannie Annie 'Gran' canned EVERYTHING. She was raised during the depression and could do the most amazing things with food. It also seems our crew can expect a jar in this year's Christmas stocking. There are a few we know who hide their jar in the back of the fridge and prohibit others from eating it!

Not sure whether it is the taste we appreciate, the accomplishment or the right of passage, but these girls will know how to can jelly, figs, tomatoes, salsa and spaghetti sauce, how to "put up" vegetables in the freezer, how to process pickles, how to make pepper sauce.....

So many people ask, what's a scuppernong? What is a muscandine?  Here you go!

The scuppernong is a large variety of muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) a species of grape native to the southeastern United States. It is usually a greenish or bronze color and is similar in appearance and texture to a white grape, but rounder and larger and first known as the 'big white grape'.

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are a grapevine species native to the present-day southeastern United States that has been extensively cultivated since the 16th Century. Its recognized range in the United States extends from New York south to Florida, and west to Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. They are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.

Muscadine berries range from bronze to dark purple to black in color when ripe. However, many wild varieties stay green through maturity. They have skin sufficiently tough that eating the raw fruit often involves biting a small hole in the skin to suck out the pulp inside. Muscadines are not only eaten fresh, but also are used in making wine, juice, and jelly.

Muscadine grapes are rich sources of polyphenols and other nutrients studied for their potential health benefits.

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