Fall is the season of canning and preserving the hard work of summer just before settling in for a long winter. Wild grapes were a bonus this year. A nice change from the usual vegetables and fruits to “put up”.
These tiny tart grapes were climbing and evergreen and huge cottonwood trees just south of the farm. I’m pretty sure we weren’t the first to pick because there weren’t too many within easy reach. But, with a little climbing and getting stuck on a few branches we had picked a small bucket and home we went.
Then was the task of cleaning them. Ugh, what a purple mess! They were still pretty well stuck on the vine and there were a few spiders that made their way home as well. Spiders stop all production and empty the kitchen until someone (my husband) has taken care of the problem. After dying my fingers purple and a few evacuations a new method was used.
I prefer to not eat all the little critters that come with a wild harvest. (Dad calls it extra protein…I’m not that hungry) I soak them in vinegar and cold water for about an hour. Magical vinegar, I just love the stuff! With a few swishes of the water the dried berries and critters float to the top and can be easily removed.
Into the pot they went stems and all. No more purple fingers. A little water to keep them from scorching and some heat to release the juice. Smashing the grapes every so often (makes them wine, hahaha. Ok, cheesy I know). After about an hour or so it’s juice time. Straining and squishing through a food mill, we were ready for jelly (or wine 🙂 .
I use a pretty basic recipe for my jelly. No need to over complicate it. Just a little pectin, sugar and butter. Yes, butter. A granny secret is to add a bit of butter to the jelly to prevent the frothy foam the usually forms on top. Then there’s no skimming to do!
This recipe can be adapted for any fruit juice.
1boxSuregel Pectin1 3/4 oz
To make the grape juice: Place the wild grapes in a stock pot with about an inch of water to prevent scorching. (stems and all; just make sure they are clean of dirt, bugs and rotten grapes)
Heat slowly mashing them with a potato masher. Once heated just below a simmer, remove the grapes and strain them through a food mill, squishing the rest of the juice out.
To make the jelly: Place the juice and pectin in the stock pot and bring to a hard boil for 1 minute. Stir constantly
Add the sugar and butter. Stirring constantly bring back to a hard boil for 1 minute.
Pour into hot jelly jar. Pour canning wax on top or process in water bath
It was a cool snowy Sunday. Giant flakes were falling as we made our way to the woods.
Ok, let’s be honest. The snow flakes were massive, heavy and wet. Hitting the ground with such force that checking for the crater it left behind wasn’t out of the question. The usual calming drip, drip, drop one hears during a springtime walk was a bit louder this year; more along the lines of “clunk, splat, ahguh!”
There’s still 3 feet of snow out there and without snow shoes every step fills my boot as I sink mid thigh. Grabbing a tree to attempt the next step is begging for for a slush ball to land on the back of your neck. Splat! Ugh.
However the sap was dripping slowly and the buckets were filling quickly with slush.
Welcome to maple syrup season in northern Minnesota.
I was told I could stay home from this trip being almost 8 months pregnant its possible for this to be a miserable trip. There was no way I sitting this one out! The season is short as it is and I really wanted pancakes.
So out I went in moms mud boots and barn coat. Trudging through with my brother and father we made our way bucket to bucket. Collecting sap and dumping slush. It was a rather less than fruitful gathering as forty gallons of sap roughly translates to one gallon of syrup. With all we lost to the weather the days collection was not quite twenty gallons.
Aside from wishing I would have made a set of snowshoes this winter a fleeting thought passed.
“This is crazy, could it really be worth all this work?!”
Sorry Mrs. Butterworth but there’s no comparison! Even my husband thinks store bought syrup tastes like chemical now. (I have converted another 🙂 ) This wonderful home grown syrup is light, mapley, and has a very light tree taste. Nothing can beat it. Mrs.B yours tastes so thick and heavy with an unnatural flavor.
A few weeks ago we ran out of lasts years harvest and prayers started fly’n.
“God please help us to have a fruitful syrup season. I really want to make pancakes and use the new waffle maker this year!”
Nature is moving slowly right now but I sure hope it picks up the pace. I don’t want to go a year without!
“You always gotta learn the hard way, don’t ya?” I heard that a lot growing up, and yes sometimes taking a different path would have been the smarter way to go about things. As I get older, I now find myself preferring to do most things “the hard way”.
Really though, what is the hard way? The road less traveled? The one with the big “I hope you learned your lesson!” to follow? The less convenient? Or could it be the way that leaves you feeling accomplished, a job well done?
All of the above at some point, but mostly I find it slower, simple, rewarding, and thoughtful.
Tasked that used to be part of everyday life on the farm (or in the city) years ago, are now found to be too much work and take up too much time. Not to mention a lost art. This fast paced so called progress and need for convenience have left most lazy and unable to sustain themselves.
A few weeks ago I took a Saturday afternoon and made a batch of duck fat soap (yes, soap made of duck fat). I could have gone to the grocery and bought a whole package of soap in a few minutes. But where’s the satisfaction in that?
I’ve been making my own laundry soap for quite some time now. Again I could conveniently grab a box at the store and be done with it, or I could grab my pale and take a few minutes to stir up my own. Not to mention how much cheaper it is to make it myself! Everything still comes out all clean and fresh. Laundry Detergent
4lb 12oz box Borax
3lb 7 oz box Arm&Hammer Super Washing Soda
4 lb Baking Soda
I have seen where people have grated 2 bars of soap (homemade, Ivory, Zote or Fels Naptha) and mixed that in as well. I don’t because I found it left too much residue.
A heck of a lot of detergent for a few bucks! It only takes 3 tbsp per load!
I’m not saying all conveniences should be gone and we need to live like Little House on the Prairie (personally I would love it) but there are a million conveniences that are taken for granted.