Posts Tagged With: Jelly

Adventures of Pruning an Old Grape Vine.

Over the last 25 years trying to live close to the land in West Virginia, I have had several adventures with grape vines. I love the vines for their wildness. I sometimes wonder if the wild muscadine vines here are kin to roaches or coyotes because of their staying power. I think one day they will take over the world after some crazy annihilation of the human race. They are truly the winding, twirling, fast growing vines of folktales and do real destruction if left on their own.

Twisted grape vine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia

Twisted grapevine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia.

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grape vine, Lewis County West Virginia

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grapevine. Lewis County, West Virginia

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park 2013

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park,West Virginia  2013.

They also produce an easy to grow fruit that almost everyone likes, grapes. Grapes make so many wonderful tasting things that is almost impossible for me to picture my country life with out them. So when we bought the “new to us house” last year, one of the things I wanted to grow was concord grapes. We had been able to take care of the family farm for several years and Tom’s dad had several concord grape vines established when we moved in. I quickly learned how to make grape jelly and concord grape juice from the old vines. So, some kind of grape vines were on my wish list when we were looking for a new home. The exciting part for me is that this house had a grapevine… what kind of grapes no one knew. The vine was over grown and not well staked. So I had part of my wish answered but a lot of work to get it into shape.

A Single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon

A single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon,West Virginia.

I started my pruning at the recommended time ( late fall to late winter) after the vine had gone dormant. The temperature outside was around 50 degrees when I started working on getting the single vine back in shape. The vine had been let go so long that I found several vine tendrils had re-rooted on their own over the years.These sprouts needed to stay attached to the ground if I wanted over half the vine to remain alive. This complicates things, none of the gardening guides or books said anything about this problem.It often happens and is natures way to reproduce another grapevine. I did the best I could with the off shoot and attempted what the guides offered for advice(not much on old vines by the way). I followed the main vine and marked off with tape three main branches from the original root-stock and tried to keep them and remove the rest. One of the re-rooted shoots was from the main three branches so I really needed to keep it. That shoot was going to make trellising the vine almost impossible.

The vine had grown so long that it was actually attacking a small ornamental tree in the yard. When we moved in I had cut all of the vine from the little tree in the early spring to stop it from covering it and knew I would need to do more work this winter. In the course of 6 months the tree was under attack again. Tendrils had reached to top of the 10 foot tree and covered half of the trees branches.In a matter of 3 years the tree would die from lack of light reaching the leaves and the choking action of the vine. Even domestic grapevines can be destructive if not maintained.

Knowing grapevines only fruit on year old stems, I had to keep some the young shoots if I wanted any fruit at all next year. I literally pulled, tugged and untwisted most of the vine on to the ground to find were each branch went. Most of the vine had no outside support so this made pruning easy. I started to cut back everything that was old, dead or just to long. I removed about 3/4 of the old growth off the vine. The photo below shows the freed end of the arbor, ready for new growth.

Pruned concord grapevine

Pruned concord grapevine.

I will likely only get five or six bunches of grapes this year because I removed so much of the vine this winter. Then the following year ( year 2) I should have 20 bunches of grapes if the weather allows.  After the third year I will be back to prune the vine again. My local extension office suggests pruning  almost every year on wine grapes or grapes that have been well-tended. I think in my case every two or three years should keep the vine healthy and looking full.

I plan to add another vine to the other end of the arbor this summer. A grape that could be used for fresh eating and wine making. Concord grapes are hardy in the cold but grow small and sour fruit. Just try eating the beautiful purple fruit raw…ooo… it takes a heck of a person to chew the tart skin and chew up the large seeds. I am hoping that adding a pink or red grape will add to what I can do with them.

In the future I hope to write a post about my home-made concord grape jelly made from the fruit of this very vine. I will be working hard to remove all the weeds and briers that moved in under the vines.I will be using our bunnies for fertilizer to help them grow stronger.I just hope the summer proves my pruning was a successful, that the vine is now healthy and providing my family with fresh fruit and juices.

Categories: Country life, DIY, Grapevines, Homestead, Jelly, pruning, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Organic Store Bought Juice makes Great Cherry Jelly

small jars of organic cherry jelly

small jars of organic cherry jelly cooling

The easiest way to make a jar of home-made jelly or jam is hiding on a store shelf and we just never think of using it.  For small batches of jellies and Jam there is no reason you can not use a store-bought juice.The only requirement   is that the juice must have NO sugar added. 

Our small town Kroger is closing, so I did what everyone does when a store closes. I hit the sale shelves for bargains. Well the one I found most interesting was that 100% organic, no sugar added juices were clearanced down to $1.00 for 32 oz.  So I bought a couple along with 10 pounds of organic sugar and a 50% off sale of pectin. I knew that a winter jelly mix up was in order on one of these cold snowy days

organic black cherry juice

organic black cherry juice

As with any jelly making that I do, I look up what I want to make in a Ball canning book and read up on what the recommendations are for this type of juice. Black Cherry is very sweet when compared to a choke cherry or sour cherry. The more sour the fruit the more acidic it is, so my juice will be low in acid. I chose to use two table spoons of lemon juice to correct this problem and  followed the advice of my cook book and used two full packets of Sure-Gell  liquid pectin.  So with just 3 cups of a nice flavored juice and 6 1/2 cups of sugar, a little lemon juice and some pectin I was able to put together about 7 half pints of organic jelly in about thirty mins for about 1 dollar a jar. Not a bad way to spend a morning if you ask me and my family.

As always I wash and sterilize my jars, lids, and rings in a boiling water bath. I always add at least on extra jar to what the directions say, I have many times had about a full extra jar of jelly after filling.

boiling water bath full of jars lids and rings

boiling water bath full of jars lids and rings

Then add the juice, sugar and lemon to a 7 quart stock pot and raise the temperature slowly to a rolling boil

boiling cherry juice, sugar and lemon juice

boiling cherry juice, sugar and lemon juice

Let this mixture boil one minute then add two packets of liquid Pectin. Slowly return mixture to full boil that will not beat down with stirring and cook one full minute. Remove from heat and remove any foam with spoon.

cleaning jelly jars

cleaning jelly jars

Ladle very hot syrup into prepared jars that are cooling on towels. I some times use rubber gloves for this as getting burned by hot sugar syrup is a terrible. I also use a canning funnel keep the jars as clean as possible. If all goes well a nice thin veil of jelly will form across the top of each jar as soon as it cools a bit. I then take a spoon and slide this film and all the bubbles off the top each jar, dispose of this thick foamy jell into a bowl or saucer. Wipe down every jar making sure the top lip is very clean to make a good seal on the lids. Seal jars  with clean rings and lids allow to cool and wait for the typical popping sound of a seal jar.

Black Cherry Juice jelly

3 cups black cherry juice (mine was organic)

6 1/2 cups of sugar ( mine was fair trade organic)

two table spoons  lemon juice

One full box, two pouches liquid Pectin

7 half pint jars lids and rings

With the remaining bottle of juice I plan to make an organic Black Cherry Jam adding in a blender full of thawed no sugar added black cherries to this basic recipe. I will still need the lemon and the two pouches of pectin but this will use up the other juice and add a little texture to the spread.  The family loves the idea and has already started eating the jelly.

toast with organic black cherry jelly

toast with organic black cherry jelly

Categories: canning, Jelly, organic Black Cherry, organic foods, Preserving | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Elderberries prevent the flu??

   As many of you already know from my other blog posts West Virginia is a place with a huge assortment of wild foods. My family and I try as much as possible to use what is given in our woods for food and better health. One of the most wonderful plants that my family has found and uses not only for food but also as a medicine is Elderberries. It has been a tradition here to use these berries as a tonic or wine for centuries but more modern studies have shown that their medicinal uses are wide-spread. For more information what benefits they have finding fallow the link. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-elderberry. The berries are high in vitamin C and have anti viral properties that anyone can use in these coming cold winter months. Studies suggest that the berries reduce inflammation and swelling also so it can’t hurt to take a bit everyday and maybe more if you are feeling the effects of a cold or flue coming on.

  These little power houses are one of my favorite things about my hunter-gather life style as I make a wonderful jelly out of these berries and who can complain about a daily dose of medicine that you can put on toast, biscuits or even pancakes.

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

    My passion for the wild bushes started out on our small horse farm  where a small bush took up residence in a fence row. After talking with my husband who knew what the plant was I ask if he liked Elder berry wine and jelly he said he had not had either in years but liked them both.

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

   Well that following year I read up on the tiny berries and how to use them. Waited until they were about 80% ripe and went to work making my frist batch of Jelly that the family loved and later found out how wonderful they were for your health.

   So now every mid July I hunt for enough wild berries to make  at least 20 half pints of jelly and if I am lucky several quarts of juice to later made into syrup. We use it as a cold treatment and a preventative… a daily dose to word off the flu season blues. 

    Last spring I ran out of jelly and needed to renew my stock pile and decided to take photos of the jelly and syrup process and share them with you. A person can buy dried berries and make both jelly or syrup but fresh is always the better option if you can find them.

   The plants are easily found along road banks and ditches here in the east and most farmers mow the plants not wanting their stocky plants in their meadows. The canes grow about 5 to 9 feet tall if left to grow wild and are thornless but grow in the same manner as black berries. The canes are hallow and round and in fall they do become brittle and snapped off for other uses. In spring the plants have a very beautiful white cluster flower all along the top of the canes against a green leave back ground. Summer leading to the  red/black berries. The darker the berries the better they are for you health. These berries would eventually look almost black when totally ripe. I pick mine just before that happens as the birds love them and will clean entire bushes off in a day when totally ripe. These berries sat on my porch for about three days to finish ripening and getting that beautiful red/black color.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

  In the Jelly making process you want a few under ripe berries to help produce natural pectin to help jell the juice.If making you are making syrup only it is better to use the ripest fruits for better flavor. As you can see I used about a 90-10 mixture and still needed to add a little lemon juice to encourage the jelling process.

   After picking the berries I strip them from the stems, wash them through a colander,

berry juice stained fingers

berry juice stained fingers

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

  place them in a large stock pot and add water to begin the juicing process.

  Always wash and sterilise your jars, lids and rings before making the syrup or jelly. Plan to use a boiling water canner to seal jars.

      Next  place berries in stock pot ( mine is an 8 quart) adding about half as much water as you have berries. In my case I had almost 5 quarts of berries and I added 3 quarts water to the pot. Add medium heat to the pot and wait for the berries and water to boil a low boil and begin to smash the berries as they cook with a potato masher. The berries will appeared to pop from the heat and skins will float to the top of the juice.

     After letting the juice cool I then strain it through 3 or 4 pieces or WET cheese cloth. I put mine in a colander and drain into another stock pot. When straining the berry skins away from the juice do not squeeze the cheese cloth. let it drain naturally. If you squeeze the skins to hard they will cloud you juice making it look milky. At this point I had about 7 quarts of juice to make into any thing I wanted. I could process this very healthy juice into quart jars, I can make a more palatable syrup for coughs and colds or make jelly. I make both the syrup and jelly with sugar but honey could be used in the cold syrup instead, Jelly on the other hand needs sugar and acid to set up.

I then fallow the SURE-GEL elderberry jelly receipt that fallows. http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/surejell-elderberry-jelly-60866.aspx The receipt was once a staple of the package instructions but as of this year Kraft removed it. Not a wise idea if you ask me.

   This was the end result of about 30 minutes of picking time, a box of Sure-Gel,a few cups of sugar and a case of jelly jars.GE DIGITAL CAMERA I also made about 6 1/2 pints of cold syrup this year and that should last are family all winter. Most of these jars will eventually be sent to family and friends for a gift of health for the holidays.

  The gifts of the wild woods here in West Virgina always amaze me. I am so glad to live in a place that offers so much to a person who is willing to take the time to learn more about the wilderness. Elderberries of course can also be grown from nursery stock and  planted in you own back yard. At some point when my knees and ankles will not allow me to berry pick on a steep hill-sides I will  then transplant a bush into our yard for easy access. But at this point, I am happy to spend the day along a farm road or creek side, looking for and making a wonderful tasting flu and cold preventive the old fashion way.

Katherines Corner  this post is shared on  Katherine’s corner blog hop.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

                                         shared with the homeacre blog hop.

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, Elderberry, Jelly, organic food, Preserving | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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