In a cavern, in a canyon, in the Patty Jewett neighborhood, a consortium of bikers, gearheads and their families gather each year about the time the Concord grape vines bend low under the weight of ripe fruit. After a quick harvest, the announcement is made: JellyFest has begun. Pay attention -- this may be your only glimpse of this highly clandestine process.
First, remove all stems, leaves, critters, etc. from your grapes. Thoroughly wash to remove dirt and "garden spice." Keep in mind that Concord grapes hopelessly stain everything.
Cook the grapes with one and 1/2 cups water until they become a big mushy mess and they begin to slough their skins. Don't boil, just heat and stir every now and again. While you're doing this, sterilize your jelly jars by boiling in a big pot. Wash 'em first, and sterilize the lids and rubber rings (if you're using them) in a smaller pot of hot water.
Git yo'se'f one of these fancy food mills, and pour in about a cup of the grape slop. Gently run a rounded pestle around the edge of the cone so that juice flows into the bowl underneath. GENTLY, Conan, or you'll end up with seed shards in your jelly.
Once you have exactly 5 cups of grape juice, pour it in a deep saucepan over high heat and add one package of pectin, the ingredient that jellifies jelly, and 1/2 teaspoon of butter to keep down the foam that will build. STIR. Now hop to it, Hop Sing, because you have just committed yourself.
The behavior to the left is completely unacceptable. You MUST KEEP STIRRING ALL THE TIME, or your sugar will clump, ruining your jelly. Once the mixture reaches a hard, roiling boil, slowly add exactly 7 cups granulated sugar, while stirring. When the mixture returns to a hard boil, let it bubble for one minute. Remove from heat. Remove the layer of foam.
Now you're in the thick of it. Ladle the very hot jelly mixture into some sort of pouring device and remove a jar from the stockpot. Don't let the jars sit out long, because it's very important that you don't get cooties in your jelly, or you might get sick. Pour the jelly into the center of the jar, up to 1/4 inch from the top to make sure it sets right.
With a damp paper towel, wipe the lip of the jar to create an airtight seal. Like lightning, tightly put your lid on. Make sure the rest of your jelly mixture stays hot until you get it in a jar.
Set the filled jars upside down for five minutes each, and then turn back over. This secures the seal, as the cooling jelly creates a vacuum. Listen carefully, and when you hear the lid pop and the button is sucked down, you're clear. The jelly will keep a year on the shelf, but keep opened jars in the fridge.
Most packs of pectin come with recipe sheets for other flavors. You're a jellymaster now, so go crazy!
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