Notes on canning & preserving grapes
We have two types of grapes on our property: muscadines, also known as scuppernogs, and wild concord grapes. The muscadines mature at the end of August here in USDA Zone 8. The concords will mature at the end of September or in October but I will use my notes from last year.
Muscadines are not like your supermarket table grapes in a number of surprising ways. First of all, they do not really come in bunches like the grapes you may be used to. They sort of grow in clusters, like this:
The second difference is that they are FULL of seeds. I mean, in many cases half the interior of the grapes is seeds! And the seeds are hard to take out; the interior of the fruit is slippery and the seeds are firmly anchored. PLUS, the skins are tough. But that’s okay. Once you run them through a foley, you can get rid of the seeds and skin.
Here is my foley, and a jar each of Strawberry-Muscadine and Blueberry-Muscadine jam:
Yes, I added other fruit. I think muscadines have a musty taste and a pretty awful color on their own (brownish), and they do not have enough pectin unless you add some. That being said, they are prolific and hard to kill so I love them anyhow.
FYI we learned this year that blueberry plus muscadine tastes just like concord grapes!
Here are a few other things we have learned over the years.
- We prefer to run muscadine grapes through the juicer before cooking, not afterward. It makes it easier to pull out some of the skins. And you want to do that, because…
- You can increase your yield by using some of the skins. Save some muscadine grape skins after you crush them and run them through a food processor to make a sort of slurry to add to the juice, to make your jam. You cannot just cook them. The texture is fine if you grind them up but leathery if you put them in whole.
- Concord grapes do not need added pectin. And we find cooking them before running them through the foley is easier.
- Muscadines without added pectin, or other high-pectin fruits, will never be more than syrup in consistency. But that means if you cooked a batch of something else and it was too thick (in our case a strawberry jam that was almost hard candy), you can mix that in and reprocess and get a good jam thickness.
- Neither of these grapes makes good dehydrated raisins. God knows, I tried.
FYI we have wild concord grapes on our back fence which look like this when ripe:
Here is a good recipe for wild concord grape jelly.