I spend a great deal of time in the bush, mostly fishing and foraging for foods not available in the supermarket. I take water with me but I never bring food, after all I’m surrounded by a smorgasbord of wild food. I will eat the young leaves and young tendrils of wild grapes while walking in the bush, every chance I get. The young tendrils and leaves are both tart and sweet when eaten raw. But the real treat comes in the fall when the grapes and other wild fruits and berries are ripe, this is when I get to make jellies and jams.
There are about 80 varieties of Wild American Grapes across North America, all are edible and only a couple are commercially grown. Wild grapes are a growing season food source from spring until fall when you are living off the land, the young tendrils and the leaves are edible raw or cooked. They can be eaten like any spinach or kale dish.
One of the advantages of wild fruits is they are as organic as you can get; there are no GMOs, (Genetically Modified Organism) or chemicals like pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Wild grapes are smaller and more tart than desert grapes, so you may find adding a sweetener of some kind necessary.
My wife and oldest son are diabetic so I make sugar free jams and jellies every fall just for their dietary needs.
Step 1: Identifying Wild Grapes
Of the about 80 varieties of Wild American Grapes across North America, there are a number of things to remember in order to identify them properly. Wild grapes are smaller than domestic grapes and range in color from light green to dark purple. Wild grapes do have lookalikes such as the toxic Canadian Moonseed and here are the things to look for to make sure you are picking wild grapes.
1. The lookalikes do not have the tendrils wild grapes use to climb.
2. Wild grapes have a jagged edge to the leaves, as the lookalikes have a smooth edge to the leaves.
3. The lookalikes like the Canadian moon seed have a single crescent shaped seed in the fruit as wild grapes have multiple teardrop shaped seeds in the fruit.
4. Wild grapes have color in the vines often striped green and red.
So when picking wild grapes look for the 4 things that identify them as wild grapes, 1. tendrils for climbing, 2. jagged edges on the leaves, 3. multiple teardrop shaped seeds, 4. colors in the vine often green and red.
Step 2: Ingredients
This recipe makes 5 to 6, 250 ml jars.
4 cups Wild Grapes.
1 cup unsweetened fruit juice or water.
1 package BERNARDIN no sugar needed pectin.
Adding sweetener is your choice, you can go no sweetener added, or you can substitute honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup for Splenda, just match the recipe cup for cup. If you do not worry about sugar intake just use 1 ½ cups sugar. You can go sugar free with 1 ½ cups Splenda or some other artificial sweetener, or ¾ cup sugar and ¾ cup Splenda for low sugar.
Step 3: Directions
Gather 8 to 10 cups of wild grape bunches.
Wash the grapes in a colander with cold water.
Remove the stems and seeds.
After removing the stems and seeds you should have about 4 cups of grapes, do not worry if you don't get all the seeds at this point, you can remove any missed seeds in a later step. If you remove the grape skins the jam will be lighter in color and there will be less than 4 cups of grapes to make your jam.
Step 4: Cooking
To a pot add 4 cups Wild Grapes, 1 cup unsweetened fruit juice or water, put the pot on heat at medium for 10 minutes or until the fruit is cooked. At this time if you want the jam to be totally seedless, you can separate any of the seeds you missed by passing the cooked fruit through a sieve.
To the pot add 1 package of no sugar needed Bernardin pectin, and the sweetener of your choice. Only cook one batch of jam at a time do not double up on this recipe or the jell may fail.
Put the pot on the heat at medium stirring the jam as it heats up, and let the jam simmer as you stir it for ten minutes.
Step 5: Filling & Processing the Jars
Clean and sterilize 6 bottles
Fill the jars with jam to within ¼ of an inch (5 mm) of the lip of the Jar.
Place the seals on the jars and screw on the rings loosely.
Place in a pot of water covering the lids by one inch (25 mm) cover and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
BERNARDIN no sugar needed pectin has processing times in accordance to the altitude you are processing the jam at, under 1000 ft, (305 m) 10 minutes. Over 1000 ft but under 3000 ft, (1,830 m) 15 minutes and 5 minutes for every 3,000 feet above that. In my case I need to process the Jam for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Finishing the Jam
Once the Jam has processed for the prescribed time; 15 minutes in my case, remove the pot from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the jars of jam from the processing pot wipe off the outsides and tighten the lids.
Place the jars of jam on a rack to cool.
If you haven't heard all the lids pop check the seal and place the unpopped jars in the fridge, they should keep up to 6 months in the fridge.
Once cool label and place the jars in a dark place for storage.