A Vintage Grape Jelly Recipe (and some family lore)

I posted this recipe a couple of years ago  under the heading “Wild Grape Jelly.”   That was when we just had a rag-tag bunch of grapes on the back fence, not our mini-vineyard.     Wild Grape Jelly  is definitely worthy of a re-post.

This recipe is from my grandmother, passed down from her mother, my great-grandmother.

I remember my great-grandmother who passed away when I was around nine years old.     Mostly, I remember stories that my grandmother and aunt tell about her.

My great-grandmother and me.

My great-grandmother came to the Indian Territory  in the 1890s as a child.    She came with her mother and father and her five siblings to seek  a better life.   September 15, 1893, found them in Arkansas City, Kansas, preparing for the  “run” unto the unknown  land, but hard times and tragedy hit the family as the baby was very sick with quick consumption and died the night before the territory was to be opened.   Instead of making the “run,” they returned to Sabetha, Kansas to bury their child.   They returned to Ark City to wait out the winter and try again to enter the territory when the weather let up.

In 1894, my great-great grandfather boarded a train into the Cherokee Outlet.   With $150 in his pocket, we was going to try to buy a claim from a discouraged settler.  He felt like this was his last chance.   He had his sights set on Enid, Oklahoma where he had heard of some claims for sale.

As the train reached a small town north of Enid, it was held up.   This money was all he had—his entire savings.   He fell to the floor and hid his money in his shoe.   The conductor luckily had a gun.   One robber was killed and another was wounded and captured.   What a welcome to lawless Indian Territory.

The train landed him right in the middle of Red Dirt country and he was convinced it was ill-suited for farming.   He continued on to Waukomis, walked fifteen miles west to Hoyle, inspected the property and bought the claim with his $150.

He returned to Ark City, rigged up the wagon and loaded the cook stove, sewing machine, trunks, dishes and kitchen supplies into a three-foot wide wagon.     They also loaded down a spring wagon that my great-great-grandmother drove.

They made it through spring floods and reached the claim.   They had to borrow five dollars from a generous neighbor to register their claim and great-great grandfather had to set off further west to Alva to register it, leaving his family alone.

That night, someone snuck in and stole the horses.

This poor family.    They suffered skunk bites (that they dressed with freshly butchered chicken meat in hopes of “drawing out rabies”), panthers stealing pigs, and the dreaded outlaw Zipp Wyatt (aka Dick Yeager).

Well, such is the family lore.

I really wonder how they made it.    I remember my great-grandmother as a frail woman but she had to be tough-as-nails to have lived through all of these tribulations at the age of six.    I can just picture her picking wild grapes so her mother could make jelly, probably the only sweet they might have during the winter months.

Wild Grape Jelly
This recipe was written in my grandmother’s hand, passed down from her mother.

Cut small bunches of grapes from large stems.  Wash well.

Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes.

Drain through colander lined with cheese cloth or thin muslin.

This recipe calls for pectin.  Since the pioneer women did not have this they would cook some green fruit with the ripe.

6 cups wild grape juice

Juice of one lemon (strained)

1 package powdered fruit pectin

7 1/2 cups sugar

Bring to a boil.  Add 1 package powdered fruit pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Stir in 7 1/2 cups of sugar.  Bring to a rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim.  Pour into hot jars and seal.

Just look at that color—beautiful.  (Those are Niagra grapes from our vines.)

I have made this recipe many times and I love to give it to family members for holiday gifts with a family story and this printed recipe.   To prepare the grapes, use the same process as I did for making Grape Jam with Orange Essence and just strain the pulp through cheese cloth.

Of course, we didn’t use wild grapes but the grapes from our mini-vineyard.    This is delicious and again it is a great pairing with peanut butter!

I grape jelly homage to my ancestors.


Stay tuned for at least one more post in Gala of Grapes.


Tip of the day:     Place your jars on a clean towel and then (once the burner is turned off), place a newspaper in between the jelly pot and the jars.

This will catch any drips and make for an easy clean up.    That is unless you are more careful than I am and you can make it from the pot to jars without any drips.

I am a truly messy cook. PLEASE make sure your flame is off before doing this.

And finally, a big thank you to Choc Chip Uru.   She was kind enough to award Eliot’s Eats with another Versatile Blogger Award.   If you have not been over at CCU’s site, please hop on over.  This young lady has a wealth of culinary knowledge and her sweets are out of this world.     She also posts some pretty entertaining restaurant reviews too.

Thanks, CCU!!!!!!

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