by Texas Homesteader ~
Deep purple Concord grapes make a very flavorful homemade grape jelly. I’m sharing the lazy-cook’s way to make simple grape jelly without adding pectin. I’m even including the easiest way to preserve it longer-term by simple water-bath canning. Delicious, homemade and makes a great gift idea too.
(Note: Some links in this post will take you to other related articles for further information. But links preceded with * are affiliate links. If you click and buy something I could receive a tiny commission.)
What’s The Difference In Jelly and Jam?
Did you ever wonder what the difference was between jelly & jam? According to the National Center For Home Food Preservation,
“Jellies are usually made by cooking fruit juice with sugar.
Jams are thick, sweet spreads made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar. “
Since I extract both the grape’s juice AND crush the fruit for pulp, my Concord grape jam is somewhere between jelly & jam. But for simplicity I’ll refer to it as grape jelly in this post.
Growing & Harvesting Concord Grapes
You can buy or grow your own grapes for this jelly. But my Concord grapevine grows vigorously and produces heavily in my garden. So I grow and harvest them for my homemade grape jam.
Here in growing zone 8a my Concord grapes are typically ready to harvest in late July / early August. But the entire bunch of grapes is never ripe all at the same time.
So I harvest ripe grapes much like I harvest blueberries – one at a time.
Those grapes are harvested each morning as I pass through the garden on my way to the chicken coop.
Do Grapes Ripen Off The Vine?
No, grapes do not ripen once they’re harvested from the vine.
So by picking only the ripe grapes each day I’m able to harvest and enjoy them in their fullest sweet robust flavor.
After harvesting the grapes each day I’ll bring them inside, wash them and allow them to air dry. Then I’ll place them in repurposed bags in the freezer.
By freezing them I can wait until after the heat of summer to make my homemade jelly when it’s more convenient for me.
Freezing & Thawing Grapes For Jelly
Since my grapes have been frozen I bring them out of the freezer the day before I’m ready to make my homemade grape jelly. I dump the frozen grapes into a large stockpot.
Then I place the pot in the refrigerator to allow the grapes to thaw overnight.
A simple shortcut: By freezing then thawing the grapes, they’ve released enough of their own juice that I don’t need to add any water when simmering them down.
How Do You Get Juice & Pulp From Grapes?
Grapes are simmered and mashed to extract the juice and pulp. When it’s time to simmer the grapes I’ll bring out my large pot of thawed grapes and put them on the stove with the heat set to medium-high.
If you’re using fresh grapes you’ll want to add a cup or so of water when simmering them – just enough to keep things from burning until the grapes release their own juice.
As they heat up the grapes will soften and more & more of their juice will be released. I’ll use a potato masher to crush those grapes as they simmer.
I want as much juice and pulp as I can get.
After the fruit is soft & crushed and have released their juice I need the juice & pulp.
How Do You Separate Grape Juice & Pulp From Seeds & Skins?
My Concord grapes are a seeded variety. But it’s easy to separate the grape juice & pulp for your jelly from the seeds & skins you don’t want.
The easiest way is to dump the whole thing in a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow the juice to drip through. The resulting strained juice is what you’ll use to make your jelly.
But remember, I like to have a little pulp in my jelly as well.
So I dump it all into my vintage *Metal Jelly Strainer and the juice runs out of the holes into a large bowl placed beneath.
To extract the pulp I use the wooden plunger to press it all down.
The pulp is then pushed through the holes of the metal sieve and is collected in the large bowl along with the juice.
How Much Sugar for homemade jelly?
I never know from one year to the next how many grapes I’ll be able to harvest. But this Concord grape jelly recipe is easy to adjust – it’s based on the number of cups of juice/pulp you get!
When it’s time to make my jelly/jam I’ll measure the juice and pulp to find out how much I have.
For each cup of grape juice/pulp I’ll add 3/4 cup of sugar to make jelly.
So to begin making my grape jelly I’ll measure out my juice and add the appropriate measure of sugar into a large stock pot.
JELLY-MAKING TIP: You’ll want to use a much larger pot than you think you’ll need when making jelly since simmering juice/sugar will really bubble up. You don’t want to clean up that mess, trust me…
I’ll place the large stockpot holding my grape juice/pulp on the stove with the heat set to medium-high and stir as the jelly starts to heat up. Keep in mind you want to stir often as sugar syrup will burn pretty easily.
I bring the mixture to a hard boil which cannot be stirred down and until I reach the jellying point temperature. (for me, that’s 220 degrees F. but your gel temperature could be different based on you altitude)
JELLY-MAKING TIP: Make sure your jelly reaches the gelling stage temperature. I once removed the pot from the heat just 1 degree shy of the gel point and my jelly didn’t thicken well at all.
Stirring constantly I hold the jelly at the gelling point for about a minute and I’m done!
Now that the jelly is finished you can pour that hot jelly into hot jars. (NOTE: hot jars help avoid glass thermal shock and cracked jars).
Allow it to cool & store your grape jelly in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator.
How Long Does Homemade Jelly Last In The Refrigerator?
There are lots of variables that determine how long your jelly will last in the refrigerator. Circumstances such as how often you have it out of the refrigerator with the jar open, etc. Some say 6 months or more.
But the National Center For Home Food Preservation suggests that to be on the safe side you should enjoy your refrigerated jelly within the next month or so.
So if you’ve made more Concord grape jelly than you can eat that quickly, you might want to consider canning it. Plus homemade grape jelly makes a great gift idea too!
Reasons Why Jelly Fails to Set
We’ve all been there. You thought you did everything right but… Your jelly just didn’t set. Don’t worry, it happens to most of us at one time or the other.
If you’re looking for possible reasons, solutions or what to do with unset jelly I urge you to read Why Didn’t My Jelly Set.
In that post I list solutions to try to remake the jelly and suggestions on how to use thin jelly too.
How To Preserve Homemade Jelly By Canning
Canning your grape jelly/jam is easy and can be done using a simple water-bath canner. And I use the boiling water to heat and sanitize my canning jars while I’m making my jelly. Two-fer win!
I keep the jars submerged in the simmering water while I’m cooking the jelly. Then I use the water-bath canner rack to pull the jars up so I can carefully dump the hot water out of the jars, fill them with jelly, top with the lids and return them to the canner rack until they’re ready to be canned.
(If you’re not already familiar with water-bath canning, see reference links at the bottom of the page for more specific home water bath canning information)
Place your hot jelly into hot sanitized hot jars, top with prepared canning lids & process in a water-bath canner.
Here in NE Texas I process my homemade jelly in water-bath for 5 minutes after the water returns to a boil. (your time may be different based on your altitude – see references at the end of this post)
When the canning time is up I remove the jars carefully and place them in a draft-free location for 24 hours.
After that time I’ll check the seal, remove the rings & wipe down the jars before labeling them and storing them in my pantry.
How Long Do Home-Canned Jars of Jelly Last?
Again, there are many schools of thought regarding how long jars of home-canned jelly will last. To be on the safe side, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends enjoying your sealed jars of homemade jelly within about 12 months.
The most important thing is that the jar remains properly sealed.
So before storing home-canned food in the pantry it’s important to remove the ring from your jars.
With the rings on the jars pressing the lids down, the jar could appear to still be sealed when the seal is actually failing. A false seal can be dangerous. Food safety is important.
But this Homemade Grape Jelly recipe is super easy. So if you’re ready to make your own homemade grape jelly, here’s the recipe!
Did you make this Homemade Grape Jelly? Please rate the recipe in your comment below!
Easiest Homemade Grape Jelly Recipe – No Added Pectin
Multiply For Each Cup Grape Pulp/Juice Extracted:
- 1 cup Grape Juice/Pulp
- ¾ cup Sugar
Extract Juice / Pulp
If needed, add 1 cup water to grapes in a large stockpot. Bring grapes to a boil, crushing the fruit with a potato masher to release juice & pulp until the fruit is very soft.
Remove the pot from heat, top with a lid & allow mixture to cool slowly.
When the grape mixture is cool, strain the juice, separating juice/pulp from seeds and skins.
Making Grape Jelly From Juice/Pulp
Measure the juice/pulp and add 3/4 cups of sugar for each cup of grape juice measured. Bring juice to a hard boil that can't be stirred down and reaching jellying point - about 10-15 minutes
(Jellying point is 8 degrees above boiling point of water, or 220 degrees here in NE Texas, but your gel point could be slightly different based on your altitude.
Place hot jelly into hot sanitized jars and add a lid. Allow jelly to cool, then place jars in the refrigerator. Consume within about 30 days.
Optional Water-Bath Canning Grape Jelly
If desired this grape jelly can be water-bath canned. Sanitize canning jars and heat lids. Pour hot jelly into sanitized 1/2-pint canning jar leaving 1/4" headspace.
Wipe any drips from rim of jar and top with 2-part canning lids.
Lower hot lidded jars into water-bath canner, making sure hot water covers the jars by 1 to 2 inches.
Once water returns to a boil, process jelly in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes for altitudes up to 1000. (processing time may vary based on your altitude. Be sure to follow your canner's directions.)
Then remove sealed jars from canner and allow jars to stand in a draft-free place undisturbed for 24 hours before removing the bands.
After 24 hours remove bands, test for seal, label and store jars. Any unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 30 days or reprocessed and water-bath canned again
NOTE: Quantity of finished jars of Grape Jelly depends upon the amount of grapes you harvest & juice you extract. Just add 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of pulp/juice extracted.
NOTE: It’s best to add as little extra water as possible. If necessary add 1 cup water when simmering grapes to give enough moisture until the grapes begin releasing their own juice. But if you start with previously-frozen grapes you can just thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and they’ve already given up enough juice to simmer the whole grapes with no added water necessary.
NOTE: Jelly point is 8 degrees above the boiling point of water, or 220 degrees here in NE Texas - but may be different for you based on your altitude.
NOTE: When processing time is less than 10 minutes it’s necessary to sanitize the jars beforehand. I put them in the water bath and sanitize them in the simmering water while I’m making the jam.
If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning link at the bottom of this post. For more information on water-bath canning, please read the link at the bottom of this post Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning.
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Nat’l Center For Home Food Preservation –