Growing up in Niagara, Fall was time for celebrating of all things grape. To this day, the aroma of Concord grapes in their baskets transports me back to my youth. Who doesn’t love grape juice, jelly, jam, pies, or popsicles?
Many people in our area grow or have access to naturally grown Concord grapes or have wild grapes. These deep blue beauties are high in antioxidants and are extremely well suited for juices and jellies. Extracted juice can be slightly sweetened and water-bath canned or used to make jelly. Canadian Living recommends crushing 10 cups of picked over grapes with 1 cup of water and simmering in a Dutch oven for 10 minutes. The mixture is placed in a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth lined sieved to drip for at least 2 hours. The yield should be 4 cups. For a jelly, you can use a long-boil method (no added pectin), or either crystal or liquid pectin. Follow the directions on the package or tested recipe.
Coronation grapes are Canadian developed seedless hybrids and cousins of the Concord. Simply for ease of preparation, they are preferred for pies, jams, conserves, home canned fruit cocktail or for dehydrating.
Let’s face it, most people end up buying commercially grown grapes at some point during the year. Grapes, like berries and apples are some of the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables identified as having large amounts of residual pesticides. However, in recent studies reported by the Test Kitchens of America, swirling these fruits in a bath of 2 tsp of baking soda per 1 quart of water and then rinsing in cold water removes the pesticide residues. This is because the carbonate and organophosphate pesticides break down in the alkaline solution. The method doesn’t work for pesticides that are designed to be absorbed or those that are applied to roots, but it is effective for the two most commonly used pesticides. So, go ahead and buy commercial grapes (and other fruits) to eat or preserve but treat them first to remove pesticide residue.
The mighty grape is a versatile fruit for preserving. Pick your own, gather some up from a friend, buy commercially grown or even stop off at one of your local wineries to pick up a bottle of fermented grapes (aka wine) to make a wine jelly and enjoy the wonders of early Fall.