Wild grape vines grow all over Texas, but they don’t always produce grapes. In fact, this was the second time I have seen grapes on the vines in our area. The first time I saw them, I wasn’t the homesteading country gal that I am now, so I turned up my nose and did not even try them. This time, however, I jumped up and down, because I knew we could make grape jelly out of them! How times have changed…
This year, our May and June were some of the wettest we have had, complete with flooding. So, the vines got enough rain to produce grapes. We live in the sandier part of Texas, so our vines did not produce the abundance I have seen from others who live in the northern areas. However, I was able to pick about 8 cups of grapes. Pretty good for our arid climate!
What are Mustang grapes?
Mustang grapes are wild grape vines with pretty sour grapes. They grow on fences, hedges, trees and walls at random, wherever they can flourish and take root. They are completely edible and loved by all animals, particularly since berries and fruit do not grow in abundance in our part of the country.
In wetter parts of the country, the grapes are a dark purple, but in our part of the country, we are thankful when they turn a dark reddish color. If they turn purple, they are too ripe for picking and going bad. However, if you have a little too much help from some little people and they pick the grapes green, this will still work for making jelly.;-) I just try to educate!
The Mustang grapes are highly acidic grapes, so some say they burn the skin when picked, or sting when eaten. We found them particularly sour, but not stinging. The leaves have a green top color, but when turned over the down side is a kind of soft white (you can see this in the photo. These grapes are typically used for jelly or juice when mixed with sugar, or used for dying cloth. And, of course, some used them to make wine during the Civil War.
These are a different species of grape from wild muscadine grapes or riverbank grapes. Nor are they plums. If you are unsure, check your local extension agency, of course.
Mustang Grape Jelly Recipe
You will need:
6-8 cups of wild grapes (3 1/2 pounds)
7 cups of sugar
1 box of Sure-Jell
Canning jars with fresh lids for 8 cups of jelly (I haves used whatever jars I have on hand without cracks and used brand new seals and lids and the canning has been successful).
Large bowl and a strainer.
Large pot with a rack for the bottom to seal your jars for pantry storage, plus any other tools you need for canning, such as jar tongs or a magnet to place the lids on hot jars.
Second pan to cook the grapes in
How to make your grape jelly in the first phase:
Begin by washing the grapes pulling out leaves and stems. Second, place them in a second pot with about 1 cup of water in the pan, cover and then turn the heat on medium. The idea is to cook the juice from the grapes. Occasionally, mash the grapes to help separate the pulp.
Just before the juice is just beginning to boil, remove the pan from the burner. I recommend cooling the pulp and juice before attempting to strain it, but you can certainly strain your juice hot.
When you are ready to strain your juice, place a large canning pot with about 1/2 to 3/4 full of water on the stove to boil. Since grapes are a highly acidic food, you do not need a pressure cooker to can this jelly, but you can certainly use one if you have it.
To strain the juice, place your strainer (and cheesecloth if used) over your bowl and pour out the contents of the pan.
Gently mash the fruit to release the juice into the bowl, wrapping it up in cheesecloth, if necessary, to squeeze out the remaining liquid.
In the second phase:
Toss the pulp. Then add water to the juice to make 5 cups of juice. The idea is to get as much juice out of your grapes so that your jelly will actually gel. Watered down juice will not work as well.
In a rinsed pan, return the juice into the pan, heating it back up again. Add 7 cups of sugar to the pan and stir until the mixture is as dissolved as possible.
Finally, take the package of Sure-Jell and mix it into 3/4 cup of water, heat it to a boil, and then boil it for 1 minute. Stir in the the Sure-Jell mixture into the sweetened juice and stir again, ensuring that all of the sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Heat, but make sure you don’t boil the juice. When the sugar and gelatin are mostly dissolved, pour this mixture into clean jars and top with lids. Seal tightly.
Use your canning tongs to carefully set the jelly jars into the boiling water and cover with a lid. Allow the jars to remain in the bath for about 8 minutes, then remove them using the tongs again. Place the jars on a towel and allow to cool.
If the canning is successful, the jar lids will pop one by one. This means that they are properly sealed. To check them, press your finger on a lid to test for any movement in the lid. If the lid moves, your canning was not successful, and you will need to put them in the refrigerator for a second canning. Check the Sure-Jell directions for more information.
Store successfully canned jars in your cabinet or pantry. Your jelly should be ready for use within 24 hours. Store the remainder of the jars in the pantry for later use.