Wild Grape Jelly: Practicing an important homesteading survival skill

When it comes to Practicing Survival Skills – I’d much rather be out in the field making a sling shot or shooting my 10/22 or chopping fire wood, actually probably doing anything else besides inside at the kitchen counter trying to figure out how to make jelly.  But, that’s what learning is all about – sometimes you need to take the time to learn skills that might not be your favorites yet are still important.  I believe that canning is an important survival skill.  When it comes to getting started in canning, it doesn’t get much easier than making jelly.

Wild Grape Harvest

At least here in Indiana, Wild Grapes are in season.  They like the sun and thrive along tree lines and old fence rows.  I found these along a southward facing treeline near an old grown up field.



wild-grapes-ray-of-sunDon’t confuse Wild Grapes with the huge super sweet ones you buy at the grocery.  They are small and can sometimes be pretty acidic rather than sweet.  However, the flavor is very raw and rich – like most wild things.  There are many berries (some poisonous) in season at the same time as Wild Grapes.  Be sure to to 100% positive ID the grape vine.  Wild grapes should have leaves that look like the one below and the vines will also have grabby winding tendrils like below as well.  If in DOUBT, leave it OUT.  There are several grape vine look-a-likes – like MOONSEED – which has a similar leaf and similar looking berries.  Here is a very well written article that out-lines several differences.  Take a minute to read it if you are going to go Wild Grape Hunting: http://www.nativeorchid.org/news201012.htm


wrapping-tendrilsCheck out the photo below of 3 berries in the same spot when I was harvesting grapes (1 is wild grape and the other 2 are unknown).  This just shows that you need to be careful.

3-berries-in-same-spotI only spent about 30 mins. gathering these grapes and brought home quite the bounty.



Now for this Wild Grape Jelly Thing

Below is the simplest recipe/instructions I could find:

3 lbs wild grapes, stemmed

3 cups water

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 (85 ml) package liquid pectin


  1. In large saucepan, crush grapes with potato masher; pour in water and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until fruit is very soft.
  3. Transfer to jelly bag or colander lined with a double thickness of fine cheesecloth and let drip overnight.
  4. Measure juice (you should have 3 cups/750 ml) into a large heavy saucepan; stir in sugar.
  5. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
  6. Stir in pectin.
  7. Return to full boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  9. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace.

Recipe compliments of http://www.food.com/recipe/wild-grape-jelly-72585

I’m not a very patient (or detail oriented) person, so I made a few modifications.  Here’s exactly what I did.

First, I put 3 cups of water in a large pot.  It didn’t seem like much water so I added a little more :)  Then, I filled the rest of the pot with grapes – stem and all.  I have no idea if this was 3 pounds.

grapes-in-waterI turned the stove on HIGH until the water started boiling and then I cut the heat down and let it simmer for the suggested 10 minutes.  The whole time, though, I used a big spoon to crush the grapes.  I skipped the pre-crushing stage and decided to combine it with this one.

wild-grape-jelly-boilingThe water quickly turned a deep purple.  After the 10 minutes I dumped the mixture into a colander over another large pot.  There was no way I was going to let this drip overnight so I helped it out by smashing it with the spoon some more.

wild-grape-jelly-strainingThis process yielded about 6 cups of deep purple grape stock.  The recipe calls for 3 cups for I measured out 3 cups and poured them back into the original pot and added the 4 1/2 cups of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil.  WARNING:  This stuff really froths up and wants to boil over so watch it closely.  I turned away for just a few seconds and it started boiling over – a big mess.

wild-grape-jelly-boiling-3Once this started boiling I added in the PECTIN and boiled like the recipe says for 1 minute.  PECTIN can be found in the CANNING section at the grocery store.

wild-grape-jelly-pectinI then took the pot off the heat and let it set for a few seconds.  A frothy skim formed on the top of the mixture so I skimmed that off with a spoon and then just poured the stuff into my canning jars.  It was very easy.  I put the jars into the fridge and the next morning the jelly had set up absolutely perfect.


wild-grape-jelly-labelSo, I fixed breakfast and relished in the fruits (or jelly rather) of my labor.


Do you want to try some?  No problem!  Register for a Survival Class at Willow Haven this fall and I’ll save some for you.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

by Creek

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