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!!!!!!

24 comments to A Vintage Grape Jelly Recipe (and some family lore)

  • I can’t even look at a pot of something liquidy without it spilling all over my stove! The idea of using paper towels is wonderful.

    I love reading about your family’s history. American history fascinates me anyhow because it’s all so ‘recent,’ so talking about claiming land happened as recently as one great great grandparent ago. Amazing.

    I’m definitely saving this recipe! I’ll be on the hunt for grapes now.

    • I made some more pepper jam this weekend and even though my recipe says “Beware of boil overs” I still made a HUGE mess!!! Thanks for the comment.

  • It was wonderful to learn a little of your family history my friend, this wonderful grape jelly must taste all the better because of it 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

    • Thanks, CCU. It was fun researching this a bit. My family has only spoken of the feared outlaw Dick Yeager. I found out he had a couple of aliases including Zipp Wyatt. The full story is that my great-great grandmother was left alone while her husband went back to Kansas to teach school. The neighbors chided her for staying on the claim alone b/c of the outlaw. She bravely stated, “What in the world would he want with a poor old woman and a bunch of raggedy kids!” 🙂 Guess she was sassy too.

  • Liz

    Wow, you sure know a lot more about your family history than I do…or maybe mine have nothing nearly as exciting to report! Your jelly looks wonderful…and I’d definitely need that paper 🙂

  • What a lovely post! People were certainly tough back then. It’s stories like this that make me thankful to be living in the “easy times.” Your great-grandmother and g-g father sounds like really determined and hardworking people and you are obviously quite proud of them. Of course I do love the grape jelly recipe! My grandmother use to cook down apples for her pectin so I love that you mentioned that!

    • Thank you, M.J. So, did your grandmother use the apple pectin for all jellies and jams or just for apple jelly? I have used pectin sparingly this summer and just cooked everything until it was “jammy.”

  • Such a beautiful story Debra! The family passed through so many hardships so as to be able to settle down and start a life! These family recipes are true gold!

  • What a great story–and I love the photo of your great-grandmother and that old map. It’s so much fun to think about that generation and what their lives must have been like, although I don’t think I was tough enough to have handled it.

  • […] A Vintage Grape Jelly Recipe (and some family lore) […]

  • I heart this so much I could die! (Have you ever noticed that you make me want to die a lot? lol) I have no old family pioneering stories–I’m terribly jealous and just in awe that you do! And you still have a recipe from great grandma! Fabulous, amazing, wonderful, spastically fantastic! I die, I die I diiiiieeeeee. Oh, and congrats on the award!

    • Oh, I bet if you dug around in the family history you could find some stories about equally (or more so) interesting characters!

  • Love a good vintage recipe! And what a great story! I’ve actually been to Enid Oklahoma before!

  • What an inspirational family history! I’m sure family recipes make you feel very connected with your ancestors, especially ones this old! From my understanding, quince has more pectin than green apples.

    • That is interesting; however, I have used very little pectin this summer (except if I am making pepper jelly). I think you can cook any fruit long enough for jam.

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