Oh glorious season of Jelly making!!! What is so amazing about this “Season”? Different fruits come in Spring through Fall! Every Spring, we look forward to Blackberries, Briar berries and Strawberries! Summer, we look forward to Blueberries, Huckleberries, Cherries and Watermelon! Come Fall, Grapes, Apples, Pears and Citrus! It is all soooo yummy and essentially guilt free!
Little kids are such natural helpers! I love to encourage extra “help” anytime (ok, MOSTLY anytime) it is offered. I know one day those little helpers probably WON’T want to help, so MAYBE if its encouraged now, they’ll enjoy doing it later! The BEST (FIRST) part of making Jelly or Jam?? PICKING! Now, for us adults, this can be a time consuming task (OR you can just buy your produce already picked!) My girls LOVE to pick fresh fruit. My only problem is that they tend to eat faster than they can put in their bucket, but that’s where their childhood memories may dwell in the future so its worth the sacrifice.
Last week, we found a wild grape vine LOADED down with delicious (and small) grapes! We picked until we couldn’t reach any more. It was then that my husband came up with a fun solution. We laid down several bed sheets and he beat the vine with a long stick. You’da thought the girls were going after candy out of a pinata, at how they were grabbing and stuffing their little mouths! The sounds of high pitched squeals and muffled giggles filled the air and lots of little grape stains where made on those clean white sheets! After fending the ravaging little monkeys away from MY bucket, we finally had enough to make a batch of Jelly!
I let the girls in on the washing of the grapes, and into the pot they went (along with a little water). The girls love watching every little thing I do, so they have to pull up stools in order
to get in my way, I MEAN HELP ME cook (of course). I do let my girls help me stir the pot and mash the grapes, with careful supervision. I NEVER leave them alone for a second with the stove! Next, we sieve them through an antique strainer I picked up from a second hand store years ago. One of their “favorite” parts is getting to see all those “grape guts” come out! Next, add the juice back to the pot, with glorious sugar and then the pectin. I MOSTLY follow the Ball Recipes, but I DO cut the sugar down substantially. Once you have hit the gelling stage, I use the spoon method of judging it by how it falls off the spoon, you are ready to put into sterilized jars and then water boil. Mine don’t always gel, because I tend to break rules (directions), so be sure to follow the Ball Book and I’m sure your’s will turn out Fantastic! The next best part? TASTING. Before going to the sink for cleaning, we get spoons and fingers into our cooking pot and go to town! Crackers or Toast are also nice to Taste test with!
Now, un-romanticized; It is MUCH more stressful to cook with 3 little girls under 5. BUT, they love it so much and are SO PROUD of THEIR Jelly! It makes all the out-popping grey hairs worth it! Happy Jelly-ing!
Here is the Ball Recipe for Blueberry Jam. This is basically how I do my Grape, just by substituting the Berries for Grapes.