The average person will consume somewhere around 3,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lifetime–an amount that stacks up to about the size of the Statue of Liberty.
Grape jelly makes up one-third of that All-American staple sandwich. And while grape jelly can easily be found at any grocery store, canned homemade jelly is easy to make and simply tastes better.
As a child, I thought every family canned their own grape jelly. I remember eating peanut butter and jelly at a friend's house and wondering why their jelly tasted so different, only to find out that it was actually store-bought.
I'm lucky enough to live right in the heart of grape country, Chautauqua County, which produces the second-largest amount of grapes outside of California. Every fall since I can remember, my mother and I have picked grapes off my aunt's vineyards to make enough grape jelly to last us a year. Through those years, we have mastered our canned grape jelly recipe.
The Key to Canning: Concord Grapes
Canning grape jelly is easier than you might think–but it must be planned out, as the season for the ideal variety of grape to make the perfect jelly is short. Depending on the region, August through September is Concord grape picking season. Even if you don't live in an area that harvests concord grapes, though, most grocery stores will carry them in the fall.
Concord grapes don't look like the typical grapes you buy year-round in the grocery store. They are deep purple with a thick skin and crunchy seeds. While all grapes are fine for eating as is or even making wine, concord grapes are the variety you want to use in grape juice and grape jellies.
War and Jelly: The Creation of PB&J
Photo / Welch's
Grape jelly became a thing in 1918 when Welch was commissioned by the US Army to make "grapelade" (as it was called back then) forsoldiers in WWI. The product was such a hit with soldiers returning from war that Welch Food Inc. added grape jelly to its retail line in 1923.
Grape jelly wasn't the only food that gained its popularity from the war. To ensure that soldiers had more protein in their diet during World War II, peanut butter was added to the rations. Along the way, soldiers began combining their rations of jelly and peanut butter onto their bread, and peanut butter and jelly was created.
The Benefits of Concord Grapes
Concord grapes are considered superfoods rich with flavonoids (an antioxidant) that give this grape its deep purple pigment. Additionally, concord grapes have been found to boost brain health, lower inflammation, fight cancer, and heart disease. They also contain high levels of manganese, potassium, vitamin K, B, and C.
Why Choose Canning?
Besides tasting better than store-bought jelly, canning has many advantages. You know exactly what ingredients are going into your confection, it can save you money, and you'll be embodying an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle. Plus, canned jelly makes for a great gift!
When you have little children around, getting them involved in the canning process can teach them some valuable lessons about science, preservation, and economics, along with the value of making your own food.
Concord Grape Jelly Recipe
Here's everything you need to make perfect canned grape jelly:
- Gulf wax
- Canning jars (6-10 depending on size)
- 3-3 1/2 pounds Concord Grapes
- Sure-Jell fruit pectin: powder version (usually found with canning supplies in grocery stores)
- 7 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- Remove all stems and wash off the grapes.
- Crush the grapes in a large pot with a potato masher.
- Start heating the wax in a double boiler over low heat so that it's melted and ready by the time the rest of the jelly is ready.
- Add 1 and 1/2 cups water to the pot. Bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour the mixture into the jelly strainer (I love ones like this) and slowly press the juice back into the stockpot.
- Add the SureJell pectin and butter into the pot and return to a rolling boil. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil. Stir constantly and boil for 1 minute. Pour into jars.
- Fill jars until almost full, leaving just a little room for the wax. The wax can be poured on top of the jelly right away. Let sit until cool before putting on the lids.
If you can't get your hands on Concord grapes, then you can still make grape jelly using the directions on the back of Sure-Jell and frozen grape juice.
The shelf life of preserved cans is about one year. Enjoy!