How to Make Homemade Muscadine or Scuppernong Jelly - Easily!

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How to Make Homemade Muscadine or Scuppernong Jelly - Easily!

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Making and canning your own muscadine or scuppernong jelly  is also quite easy. Here's how to do it, in 12 easy steps and completely illustrated. These directions work equally well for other types of fruit jelly: grape, raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, dewberry, gooseberry, loganberry, tayberry, marionberry, youngberry, etc.; by themselves or mixed berry jelly. Any variations will be spelled out in the directions inside the pectin. 

Related directions:

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Muscadine or Scuppernong Grapes - 5 lbs of fresh muscadines or scuppernongs, preferably fresh, but if you want to start with grape juice (5 cups bottled or reconstituted from frozen, without sugar), you can skip to step 7.
  • Pectin - 1 package (box usually) or if you get it in bulk, 8 Tablespoons, see the directions below for specifics - (it's a natural product, made from apples and available at grocery stores (season - spring through late summer) and local "big box" stores. It usually goes for about $2.00 to $2.50 per box. You'll get best results with no-sugar needed pectin, whether you choose to add sugar or not! See here for more information about how to choose the type of pectin to use.
  • Large spoons and ladles
  • Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
  • Sugar - About 4.5 cups of dry, granulated (table) sugar. For the no-sugar recipe, click here
  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is available online - see this page. It's a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner and take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price:
  • At least 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
  • Jelly strainer - see step 6 - or a colander and cheesecloth.
  • 1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell canners and supplies here, too - at excellent prices - and it helps support this web site!
  • Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $7 per dozen 8 ounce jars including the lids and rings)
  • Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
  • Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.

Optional stuff:

  • Foley Food Mill ($25) - not necessary; useful to mush up the fruit or if you want to remove seeds (for example, from blackberries) or make applesauce.
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at big box stores or it comes in the kit at left)

Muscadine or Scuppernong Jelly-making Directions

This example shows you how to make either muscadine or scuppernong jelly. (What is a muscadine?  It's a large type of grape, with large seeds and a stronger flavor.  They're more common in the deep South), You can use this recipe to make almost any type of jelly from the fruit juice; where there is a difference, I will point it out! The yield from this recipe is about 12 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 6 pints).

Step 1 - Pick the muscadines! (or buy them already picked)

It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!

I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time. Select grapes that are in the just ripe stage.

As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use either 4 lbs of fresh muscadines or 5 cups of grape juice (either bottled or reconstituted from frozen concentrate) without added sugar.  Using grape juice is especially useful if you want to make some grape jelly in December to give away at Christmas! Above and below are muscadines that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.

Step 2 - How much fruit?

Muscadine or Scuppernong jelly can ONLY be made in rather small batches - about 6 cups at a time - like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the grape jelly won't "set" (jell, thicken). It takes about 5 lbs of raw, unprepared grapes per batch.

Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids

Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.

NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jelly), it’s better to sanitize the jars.

Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.

Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jelly.

Step 4 -Wash the muscadines!

I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the muscadines in plain cold water.

Pick out any stems and leaves that became mixed in!

 

Step 5 - Crush the muscadines

Then you just mush them up.  A potato masher is useful to help crush them. Even easier is to use a food processor, with the slicing blade and short pulses. (you don't want to chop up the seeds!)

Either way, to make jelly, we'll need to crush them well so we can extract the juice. You'll need about 6 cups of juice.

 

 

Step 6 - Measure out the sugar

Check the directions with the pectin; typically, with regular pectin, it is 7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of grape juice and one box of pectin. If you use the low-sugar or no sugar pectin, you can reduce or eliminate sugar.  Personally, I find that using about 4 cups of sugar with the no-sugar pectin works best for flavor, calorie reduction and appearance. The precise measurements are found in each and every box of pectin sold. Remove 1/4 cup of sugar from this and mix the dry pectin with it; Keep this separate from the rest of the sugar. If you are not using sugar, you'll just have to stir more vigorously to prevent the pectin from clumping.

 

Step 7 - Heat the crushed muscadines on the stove

We just want to bring the muscadines to a boil to help release the juice and break down some of the fruit to help it pass through our jelly strainer. Put the crushed muscadines in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning) for until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.          

Step 8 - Sieve the cooked muscadines

You can either put the soft cooked muscadines through a jelly strainer (about $9.00, see ordering at right) which results in the most clear jelly and is easiest to use, or pour them through cheesecloth in a colander. Or if you don't mind chunky jelly, just let the juice stand for 20 minutes, and Decant (pour off) the clear liquid to use and leave the solids behind.

You may also want to run the crushed cooked muscadines through a Foley food mill  (about $20 - see this page) BEFORE the jelly strainer - it helps to extract more juice and jet out the large skins that will clog the strainer.

If you need a stopping point and want to finish up the next day, this is a good place. Sometimes, jelly gets crystals, called tartrate crystals, forming in the jelly.  They're not harmful and don't affect the taste, but some people don't like the appearance.  If so, pour the cool juice into glass containers and set in refrigerator. The next day strain the juice through the cloth jelly bag. Do not squeeze the bag.

Step 9 - Add the pectin to the hot strained juice and bring to a full boil

Stir the pectin (with 1/4 cup sugar) mix into the grape juice and put that in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away).

Notes about pectin: I usually add about 25% - 30% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jelly is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you'll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.

Another tip: use the low sugar pectin. It cuts the amount of sugar you need from 7 cups per batch to 4 cups! And it tastes even better! On the other hand; I have never had success using no sugar at all; even with the No-sugar-needed pectin. It  always turned out runny and bland. You might want to try using the low sugar recipe with a mixture of sugar and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda); that could work.

Is your jelly too runny? Pectin enables you to turn out perfectly set jelly every time. Made from natural apples, there are also natural no-sugar pectins that allow you to reduce the sugar you add by half or even eliminate sugar.!
Get them all here at the best prices on the internet!

Need lids, rings and replacement jars?

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Step 10 - Get the lids warming in hot (but not boiling) water

Lids: put the lids into a pan of hot water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.

Step 11 - Add the remaining sugar and bring to a boil

When the grape-pectin mix has reached a full boil, add the rest of the sugar (about 7 cups of sugar per 5 cup batch of grape juice; 4 cups of sugar if you are using the low or no-sugar pectin) and then bring it back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

Step 12 - Testing for "jell" (thickness)

I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jelly is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/4 to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.

Step 13 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on

Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jelly off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!

This is where the jar tongs come in really handy!

 

Step 14 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath

Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 5 minutes, which is what SureJell (the makers of the pectin) recommend.  I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them.  The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly - and see the Table below for altitude differences. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. 

Note: Some people don't even boil the jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, but putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage! To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jelly and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil!

Table 1. Recommended process time for Muscadine Grape Jelly in a boiling water canner.

  Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints
or Pints
5 min 10 15

Step 15 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!

Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.

Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!

 


Other Equipment:

From left to right:

  1. Jar lifting tongs to pick up hot jars
  2. Lid lifter - to remove lids from the pot of boiling water (sterilizing )
  3. Lid - disposable - you may only use them once
  4. Ring - holds the lids on the jar until after the jars cool - then you don't need them
  5. Canning jar funnel - to fill the jars

You can get all of the tools in a kit here:

Summary - Typical Cost of Making Homemade Grape Jelly - makes 12 jars, 8 oz each**

Item Quantity Cost in 2005 Source Subtotal
Grapes

4 lbs

$1.00/lb Pick your own $4.00
Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids & rings 12 jars $7.00/dozen Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores $7.00
Sugar 4 cups $2.00 Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores $2.00
Pectin (low sugar, dry) 1 and a third boxes * $2.00 per box Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores $2.70
Total $15.70 total
or about $1.30 per jar
* pectin use varies - blackberry jelly needs very little, raspberry a little more, grape the most.

** - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars and reduce the cost further; just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!

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