Monday, September 26, 2022

Making Grape Jelly For The Birds (and Me)

As with many people in my area of Wisconsin, I stockpile jars of grape jelly throughout the winter season. I do this to prepare for the Baltimore Orioles which arrive around May 1. Without fail, they return within a day or two of May 1. Along with them, I will see Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks and Hummingbirds.  It is the unofficial start to Spring and Summer.

This summer getting grape jelly to feed them was a struggle. Everybody was sold out. It was probably from the disruption in the supply chain started by the COVID epidemic. A lot of grocery shelves were missing some very basic items. What did appear on the shelves were quickly purchased by other people also feeding the Baltimore Orioles. I had about twenty five jars in my pantry, but that is not enough for an entire season of feeding the birds. I went through all of it rather quickly. I resorted to asking family members for any homemade jelly they could spare. I also made jelly out of purchased grape juice. When I did find a few jars, the price was up at least sixty cents a jar. I bought it anyway. My birds had to eat. Well, maybe they wouldn't have starved, but I enjoy seeing them come to the feeders. The availability of food allows them to nest in the area. They know getting food won't be a problem. Then this spring, I heard via the "grapevine" that some stores were getting supplies. I rushed out and bought a case of 12.  It was a start. 

My mission for the winter was to buy another 12 jars when I went grocery shopping, if I saw them.  So imagine how happy I was last week when my daughter sent me pictures of their grapes. It was a bumper crop. 

They asked if I wanted to have some to make jelly. Of course I said YES. To make the offer even sweeter, they offered to juice them for me so I didn't have the hassle of extracting the juice. 

I mentioned in previous posts how they simplify the juicing process. Many years ago I bought them a steamer/juicer. You basically put whatever you want to juice in the top of this special steam pan. Just rinse the fruit and put in stems and all in the top section and water in the bottom.  The water is heated to form steam which rises through perforated holes. The steam softens the fruit releasing the juice into a center pan connected to a tube.  The finished juice is collected through a tube.  Many home wine makers use a pan such as this.  I found a blog describing the process better than I can.

Once the clamp is released on the tube, the juice collected is perfect for making jelly (or wine if that's what you want).  

The container they brought me contained twenty cups of juice. I divided it into four batches to make it more manageable. Each batch was five cups of juice, one box of pectin and seven cups of sugar.Yes, you read it right....7 cups. That is an eye opener because each tablespoon of jelly you put on your toast has more than one tablespoon of sugar. Good thing the Baltimore Orioles don't count calories because some days they eat an entire jar.  

Each of my batches made four pints of jelly plus a little bit. In the end I had seventeen jars of jelly. They ended up costing $.87 per pint (32 ounces). The store bought jelly averages 28 ounces and costs between $2.29 and $2.99 for the store brand. Welchs is more expensive. As usual making it myself saved a lot of money especially since I got the grapes free. Pure organic undiluted grape jelly.  Hopefully there will be more grapes in my future. If not, this is a great start. If the grape crop across the country is this successful, there should be plenty available for birds and for people.

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