Friday, March 30, 2012

Making Jewels for Toast

There is a pretty plant that grows around here and it is usually found near the water's edge. This plant is called the sea grape. It is native to the Caribbean.


The first time we saw sea grapes, The Colonel and I wondered if they were edible. It turns out they are and one of the best ways to eat them is to make jelly out of them (sea grape wine is also very tasty. Our friend Abe makes the best). In Yucatan, Mexico sea grape juice is used as a tonic to treat diarrhea, dysentery and digestive problems.

A couple of years ago my friend Louise made some sea grape jelly and gave us a couple of jars of it. The flavor of sea grape jelly is unlike anything you have ever tasted before. It is nothing like the grape jellies you've eaten in the past. Its flavor is unique; I can't liken its flavor to anything. It is distinctive and slightly tart. The Colonel says he tastes an underlying hint of plum and blackberry.

I mailed my little sister a jar of Louise's jelly and she said it was like having "jewels on toast".

Sea grapes ripen in August/September. The grapes do not ripen all at once. The same clump has many grapes on it in various stages of ripeness. A number of trips have to be made when harvesting the grapes in order to gather enough to make jelly. The Colonel and I visited the parks around town and eventually harvested about four quarts of the fruit which I washed and then put in the freezer.

I had two quarts left in my freezer (I had given the other two to Louise earlier), just waiting for the time when Louise could teach me how to make sea grape jelly.

Louise and I set a day and time (3/26/2012 @ 10 AM), but before I was to go to her house, she said I needed to boil my sea grapes in water until they were soft and then strain off the juice. The Colonel and I did just that.

I was to bring my juice, sugar, jelly jars and Sure-Jell with me when I came over. When I arrived at Louise's house and showed her how much juice I had gotten from my sea grapes she wondered if that was going to be enough to make jelly with. The recipe Louise was teaching me called for 5 cups of juice. I measured out my juice and had exactly 4-3/4 cups. The recipe allowed for no more than 1/2 a cup of water to be added to bring the juice level to 5 cups if needed...I needed...just a 1/4 cup...but I needed.

Disaster avoided, we moved onto the next step. Louise was boiling the jars and lids as I measured out 7 cups of granulated sugar and set it aside. Next I added one box of Sure-Jell to my juice and placed the pot on the stove and brought the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly (which made it difficult to also take pictures and Louise was not comfortable enough with my camera to do so).

Once the Sure-Jell/juice mixture was boiling it was time to quickly add the sugar (I had Louise add it so that I could get a picture of this step) and return to a full rolling boil again. The sugar mixture boiled for at least five minutes as I stirred constantly.

Once Louise determined that the mixture was done boiling (she did this by having me lift the spoon out and observe how quickly the drops off the spoon jelled), she announced it was time to start filling the newly boiled jars, but only after the foam was removed from the jelly mixture (the recipe we were following said you could add some butter before boiling to help keep the foaming action down, but Louise said she never does this, she always skims the foam off with a spoon).

I fished the jars and lids out of the extremely hot water with a pair of tongs and placed them on a dish towel. I then took a glass measuring cup and quickly dipped it into the jelly mixture, scooped the newly made jelly up and poured it into the waiting jars. This all had to be done before the jelly mixture set up. I had enough jelly to fill ten jars.

Thanks to Louise, I can now make sea grape jelly on my own, but I don't believe it will be as much fun without her.

1 comment:

  1. The knowledge that there is a larder filled with "jewels" gives me joy. There's a sweetness to life!