One of the rewards of autumn is all the fresh produce available. I think this is the best time of year for home cooking! Of course, knowing the bounty is fleeting and winter is right around the corner makes the food taste even better.
I have learned if I take some time now to preserve some of my favorite fruits and vegetables I can continue to enjoy them well into winter. Most people don’t do as much canning as they used to, but when it comes to items you can’t easily find at the supermarket like muscadine jelly, you have to preserve your own. And let’s face it, once you try it, you won’t want to go back to plain grape jelly. I know my son will not eat any other kind of jelly now, especially when it comes to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Such is the case with muscadines. Muscadines, or scuppernongs, are wild North American native grapes that ripen in late summer and early fall. They thrive in the hot, humid climates of the Southeast and, boy, are they plentiful at some of the local vineyards this year.
The fruit’s large size, sweetness and dense pulp make muscadines ideal for making preserves. It is a wonderful spread on fresh bread or biscuits. It also tastes delicious as a substitute for syrup on pancakes and I’ve even used it as a topping for ice cream.
After you make it, you can simply keep it in the refrigerator, freeze it or, for long-term storage, process it in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
2 quarts muscadines or scuppernongs, washed and de-stemmed
Grated peel of 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon (optional, great when using as a sauce for baked ham or other meats)
Sterilized glass jars with seals and rings
Begin by removing the skins from the muscadines. Using a sharp knife, just slit the skin of the muscadine about half-way around and squeeze the pulp out. If you have muscadines that are not fully ripe, blanche them in boiling water for two minutes to make the process easier. Set the skins aside.
Place the pulp in a large stainless steel or enameled pot. Put just enough water to keep the pulp from scorching (about ¼ - ½ cup); you may not need that if the pulp is juicy enough. Cook the mixture over medium high heat, stirring as it cooks, until the pulp is softened. This takes about 15 minutes. While the pulp is cooking, place the skins in a food processor and process until chopped. The skins will not break down much when cooked, so you want to get the pieces as small as you can. When the pulp is through boiling, remove the pan from the heat and press the pulp through a coarse sieve or a food mill to remove seeds.
Return the pulp to the large pot and add the skins, grated lemon peel, lemon juice and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the sugar and return to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer until mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Cook for about 20 minutes to thicken it. Add cinnamon now if you want to use the jam for basting meats.
Now you are ready to pour the preserves into your jars. The preserves should be hot when you pour it into the jars and it is a good idea for the jars to be hot as well. When you pour the preserves into the jars, leave about a 1/4-inch of headspace and carefully wipe off any residue from each jar rim, put on a self-sealing lid and then place screw band on fingertip tight. Place in the water bath canner and process for 15 minutes.
For more information on canning and making jams and jellies, contact Angela Treadaway, at (205) 410-3696.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at (205) 410-3696 or your local County Extension office.