Come learn how to pick, cook, and can your own Mustang Grape Jelly. Tangy, sweet, and wild. This grape jelly is gonna knock your socks off!
I’m not typically a grape jelly fan. I’ve mentioned this before. Growing up we mostly only had two kinds of jelly: strawberry and grape. There was nothing exciting about either of those but I definitely preferred the strawberry to the grape any day.
I almost never buy grape jelly as an adult. And now, much to my surprise, grape is the “special” jelly for my kids! I guess because it’s so “rare”.
My oldest, Noah, is especially obsessed with it. He loves to put a dollop on just about anything. Biscuits, muffins, eggs, ham sandwiches, burgers. You name it-he’ll give it a go.
And this wild Mustang Grape Jelly has become a new star in our house. The grape flavor is so intense and tart. I’m gonna follow my son’s footsteps and try it on everything too!
The Spikes of Life
We love tromping around the woods and ponds in our area of Texas.
The grapes we were harvesting were growing up and over a few thorny trees along a walking trail. The thorns were really long and sharp and I kept forgetting they were there and got scraped a few times.
I was grumping about the spiky branches when Nathan shared a great thought.
It was actually the spiky branches that were holding the vines up and giving them structure so they could grow. They were even protecting them from some predators.
He had the thought that so much of the stuff that’s uncomfortable in our lives, that challenges us, that hurts, is actually good for us. It give us structure and something to push against to rise up. It can give us the foothold and the friction we need to be able to move forward.
Sometimes the spiky branches lift us.
Nathan is the king of metaphors 😊
Foraging is Fun, But Be Careful!
***One quick note up front! If you’re having really young children help you pick, have them wear gloves. The juice can cause an intense itchiness that is mildly irritating to an adult, but little kids might have a hard time with it. IT doesn’t always effect my kids but when it does it can be awful for them. My 2 year old started crying after 10 minutes of picking and was telling me his hands were really itchy. It went away after playing in the water for about 15 minutes but it was really hard for him in the moment.***
It’s important to carefully and correctly identify any plant you’re planning to eat from the wild. If you’re hesitant, find someone who knows how to identify what you’re looking for and have them show you in person.
These grapes grow in clusters on vines with tendrils that drape over other bushes and trees. The leaves are dark green and smooth on the top and the underside is fuzzy and a light green/grey color. The grape skin is dark purple and thick.
Take a look at the seeds inside. They should be shaped like tear drops.
If the seeds are half mooned-shaped they are poisonous. STAY AWAY. These are not Mustang Grapes.
When you eat one off the vine, you suck out the inside, spit out the seeds, and discard the skin.
Green Dean from the blog and channel “Eat the Weeds” has a great video all about wild grapes, how to identify them, and where different strains come from. Here’s a link for his video.
Let’s get to making that Mustang Grape Jelly!
How to Make Mustang Grape Jelly
These grapes are really high in tartaric acid. (I’ll tell you how to get rid of that for the jelly-making process) This can cause your skin or mouth to itch quite a bit if you eat it off the vine or while you’re picking. It doesn’t always happen, in my experience. And itch goes away after about 10-20 minutes but it can bother little kids a lot. If you’re worried about it you can wear gloves while you pick.
Start by gathering about half a five gallon bucket’s worth of grapes. That’s two and a half gallons including the stems.
When you pick the grapes, don’t try and pick them individually. You end up pulling the skin off and leaving the inside still on vine. Instead, snap off the entire bunch and throw the whole thing into the bucket. It’s a lot easier this way, trust me.
Once you’re got them home, wash them off and pick out any leaves, bugs, or rotten grapes.
I don’t bother pulling all the stems out at this point.
Throw everything into a large stock pot with two cups of water.
Bring to a boil and then mash the grapes.
Boil for 10 minutes then strain all of the pulp, seeds, skin, and stems.
You’ll be left with a beautiful, magenta, extremely sour grape juice.
You’ve Gotta Give it Some Time
At this point it is still full of that tartaric acid. That’s actually what cream of tartar comes from. It’s an acid residue left over from wine barrels. Interesting, huh?
To get rid of as much as you can, pour the juice into a tall container that has a lid and will fit in the fridge. We used a large pitcher.
Leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days.
When you pull it out again, it will have some sludge at the bottom and tiny magenta dots all over the walls of the container. The sludge is just sediment, left over pulp-type stuff, and tartaric acid. The dots are the tartaric acid that pulled out of the juice and formed into crystals. They’re actually little, sharp crystal shapes, stuck to the side. It’s really cool.
Pour out the juice through some cheese cloth and you’ll catch a lot of the sludge.
You can harvest the crystals by scraping them off the sides. Bake them at 200 degrees on some parchment paper until they are dry and then grind them into a more fine powder. Now you’ve made your own pink cream of tartar! Awesome!
We used our to make some meringue cookies. They were delicious with just the tiniest hint of grape flavor.
Let’s Make that Mustang Grape Jelly Finally!
The juice is still very tart.
Before you start, stick a plate in the freezer. This will be how you determine if the jelly is ready later on.
In a large stock pot, bring the juice to a boil, along with 6 cups of sugar and 1 and a half boxes of pectin.
Boil for about 10 minutes and then test how thick it is.
To test the thickness, take the plate out of the freezer, pour a nickel-sized amount of jelly on it and put it back into the freezer for 10 seconds.
When you pull it back out, hold it straight up and down to see if it runs down that plate. Then run your finger through it and see if the finger trail stay clear or if the jam runs back together. If it immediately runs down the plate, it’s not done. If the trail fills back up after running your finger through it, it’s not done.
Keep boiling and testing with a cold plate until it doesn’t run down the plate and the trail from your finger stays clear.
Let’s Can it
This recipe fills about four and half-16 ounce (pint) jars or nine-8 ounce (half pint) jars.
To can the jelly, it’s helpful to have a set of canning tools.
I had to buy another set because I gave away mine last month. I’ve been watching videos by Dawn, The Minimal Mom. Here’s a link to her channel. She is an inspiration! And now I’m on a decluttering journey!
So, out went the canning stuff because I haven’t used it in 5 years.
But, then we came across these grapes and we just had to pick a bunch.
Here’s the link to the set I picked up. It’s a 9 Piece Canning Set
While you’re cooking your grape juice, get another large pot and fill it with water. You want it to be full enough so that when you put in a jar, it covers the tops, plus another inch of water.
Set this pot to boil.
Once it’s at a rolling boil, you can boil your clean jars for five minutes to completely sterilize them or just run the jars and tools and things through your dishwasher while you make the jam.
Pull the jars out, being careful to not touch the rim, and place them on a towel on the counter.
Skim off all the foam on the top of the jam. You can eat this. It’s just better to not leave extra air bubbles in the jar when you’re canning.
Now you can carefully ladle your finished jam into the jars.
Leave about a 1/4 inch of space at the top.
Stick the lids and rings in the water for five minutes.
Use a clean paper towel to completely wipe off any jam that got on the rim.
Seal in the Mustang Grape Jelly
Use the magnet on a stick to pull out the lids and rings and place them on the jars, without touching the rim with your hands.
Screw the lids on finger tight. That means you don’t do it super tight. Just use two fingers and a thumb to screw it on till it stops.
If you have a rack to put all the jars in, and they fit in your boiling pot, awesome! Place them in the rack and lower them into the water.
Turns out the set I bought did not fit my pot. So I did what I used to do. I pushed a hand towel down to the bottom of the pot and put however many jars would fit. I just made sure they were on top of the towel.
Now boil for five minutes.
Carefully pull them back out of the pot and place them back onto the towel on the counter to cool.
Leave them for 12-24 hours.
You Did It!
If they successfully sealed, you’ll hear a POP! sound and you won’t be able to push the middle of the lid up and down. It will be sealed down until you open the jar.
Most of mine popped as I was pulling them out of the pot but they can take way longer than that. Just come back then next day and check them.
If they didn’t seal properly, just repeat the process.
Now use permanent marker or label to write what type of jam it is and the date you made it.
Store in your pantry for up to two years. Once it’s opened, store in the fridge.
Congratulations! You made some delicious jelly! Go spread it on some buttered toast and sit outside for a sweet breakfast!
From the wild, to your table! Just look at what nature has provided for you! What a beautiful blessing to be able to use your skills and what’s around you to create something so lovely and delicious!
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support and clicking on my links!!!
Things You Might Need to Make Mustang Grape Jelly
Large Sauté – I use this pan for pretty much all of our meals.
Canning jars, lids, and rims – This is a set of 6, 16 ounce, wide mouth jars from Amazon. I got my set of 12 from Walmart.
I hope you enjoy your Mustang Grape Jelly! Thank you for stopping by!
You might also like these other posts:
- 2 1/2 gallons Mustang Grapes (measured in bunches with stems)
- 2 cups water
- 6 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 boxes pectin
- Wash the grapes and remove any leaves, debris, and bugs. You can leave the stems on.
- Pour the grapes into a stock pot with 2 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Mash the grapes.
- Boil for 10 minutes.
- Strain the skin, seeds, and stems out of the juice.
- Pour the juice into a container with a lid and store in the fridge. A large pitcher works well for this.
- Leave the juice in the fridge, undisturbed for 2-3 days.
- Place all canning tools, jars, lids, and rings in the dishwasher and run them through a hot cycle.
- Strain the juice using cheese cloth.
- In a large pan, mix the sugar, pectin. and grape juice and bring to a boil.
- Boil for 10 minutes or until the jelly is the desired thickness.
- To test the thickness, place a plate in the freezer while it boils. Pull the plate out, pour a nickel-sized amount of jelly on the plate and place it back in the freezer for 10 seconds. Take the plate back out of the freezer. If the jam doesn't run down the plate when you hold it up, it's ready. You can also run your finger through the puddle on the plate. If it keeps the pathway your finger made without running together, it's ready.
- Place your jars on a towel on the counter, being careful to not touch the rim.
- Ladle your jelly into the jars. Leave a 1/4 inch of room at the top.
- Wipe off any jelly from the rim with a clean paper towel.
- Use your magnetic lid lifter to place the lids on the jars and screw the lids on finger tight.
- Fill a stock pot with enough water to cover your canning jars, plus an inch.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Place a towel in the bottom of the pot if you don't have a canning rack.
- Lower your jars into the water and boil for 5 minutes.
- Carefully pull the jars back out and place them back on the towel on the counter.
- Let them sit to cool for 12-24 hours.
- They have successfully sealed if the lid has popped down in the middle and you can no longer push it up and down.
Store opened jars in the fridge.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 63Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 0g
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