I made grape jelly yesterday. It may not seem like the right time of year for this, but let me assure you – it is!
We adore mustang grape jelly. Mustang grape vines (Vitis mustangensis) grow all over our neighborhood. Our prior property (also in this neighborhood) hosted multiple fruit-bearing vines. When we moved to our current and larger property, we discovered only one fruit-bearer. How could this be? My theory is that we are up on a small hill with lots of Ashe juniper (or cedar trees, as we call them locally), so the soil is probably drier. This theory is borne out by the vine’s location – near the street’s drainage ditch.
By the way, the vine grows on the very corner of our property, overhanging our nice neighbors’ driveway. Imagine their dismay as they pull into their driveway and catch sight of us hanging like monkeys over the fence under the hot July sun picking those terribly sour grapes: “Good lord, what are those crazy people doing now?”
If we want to make a huge amount of grape jelly, we have to track down other picking places. This year, however, we picked our lone vine bare, and harvested enough for four batches - eight to nine jars per batch.
If I don’t have time or inclination to make up the jelly after we've picked, I cook down the grapes and freeze the juice for another day.
Yesterday was that day. Making jelly on a cold, winter day is a wonderful and satisfying thing. Not only did it warm up the house (as jelly requires three pots boiling simultaneously), but it also added a delicious-smelling humidity to the atmosphere. I’m quite sure this is more enjoyable than sweating through the process on a hot July day.
This is definitely the right time of year to make jelly, and I'm sorry it’s taken me so long to figure that out!
Favorite spot in the garden today:
The spineless prickly pear caught my eye today. I planted it on either side of the front step, where it provides a lovely patch of pale green in the winter landscape and coordinates perfectly with the white limestone wall and cedar-toned porch behind. (Did I plan all that? Hah! No!) I also like the light/dark variations created by the sun’s angle.