Preparation and Method
It is early August and time to harvest the wild grapes here in South Carolina. Nothing speaks of high summer more eloquently than the heady aroma of sun ripened muscadines. Or, if you travel a bit farther toward the north, you can gather the almost identical fox grapes. I can remember as a teenager filling buckets and buckets of them late in August from the roadsides in our wooded New Jersey neighborhood. My sisters and I would cook up large batches of jam and can it for Christmas gifts.
Finding these delicious fruits can be somewhat of a challenge. The vines grow along the edges of woodlands, climbing into trees and trailing along the ground. Bunches of grapes can hang quite high and require a ladder and fruit picker to obtain. But the effort is well worth it. The taste of homemade wild grape jam is incomparably superior to the corn syrup laden commercial varieties. Home canning not only saves money, it is a way to enjoy optimal flavor and nutrition.
Here is the method I used for wild grape jam:
1 gallon wild grapes (leave a few green ones in as a source of pectin)
4 1/2 cups natural sugar
Remove stems from grapes and wash. Place in large pot and crush with potato masher, cover with water and simmer 20 min. Remove from heat and press through a colander into another large pot. This should yield about 6 cups of pulpy juice. Measure 6 cups into pot and add sugar. Bring to boil and cook, maintaining a steady bubbling on the surface for approximately 30 min. To test, place a few drops onto a chilled saucer. It should have a thick, syrupy consistency which will gel further as it cools completely. If you are into home canning, pour into jars and process 15 min. in water bath or, if you plan to eat it right away, cool the jam and refrigerate.