Little by little we are exploring our land and finding treasures amongst the wilderness.  We were nervous moving to this property in the Missouri Ozarks not knowing if we would find any existing sources of edible foods.  Our little urban farm in Arizona had so much…pre-existing as well as planted by us.  It was a risk we were willing to take, however, in order to have more land and independence.

So far, we are very excited to have found wild blackberries, black walnuts, wild chives, persimmons and wild grapes.  We have also discovered tons of wild mushrooms, but are too scared to eat any of them.  Some of them are beautiful!  Others, super crazy looking…like the one that looked like an old man’s ear.  We’ve been very fortunate to have made friends with two very knowledgeable people who are open to teaching us more about the wild edibles on our land.  They spent a couple hours with us a couple weekends ago showing us edible and medicinal plants and trees right in our own backyard.

Earlier in the summer, we made our first batch of wild blackberry wine.  It is such a gorgeous color and the initial tasting was down right amazing.  But my most exciting recent endeavor was making our very first wild grape jelly!  Do you know that I love to can food?  Well, I love to can food.  I haven’t canned anything since April and it’s been killing me!  So, YAY, I canned wild grape jelly.

Kevin and I were looking for persimmon trees one morning and happened upon these beauties.

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We didn’t think there were that many went we started picking them.

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But they really added up!

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They weren’t very big.  In fact, they were sorry excuses for grapes compared to those I’ve come to know from the grocery store.  But, they had great flavor.

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I picked them all off their stems.  I thought that part would never end.  It was probably the most tedious task I’ve ever performed in preparation for canning.

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After a few rounds of washing, I put them in a soup pot and filled it with water until the water level was just above the grapes.  You see, there wasn’t that much juice…but there was tons of flavor.  So by adding water and heating them until they burst, you are extracting the flavor and combining it with the water to make juice.  You do much the same thing with cranberries.

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After the grapes and water reached boiling, I lowered the heat to a simmer and covered them.  Every 5 minutes or so I stirred them and looked to see if they had burst.  It took a good 30 minutes for them to cook down.  Occasionally, I used a potato masher to smash them down.  But to be honest, it was just good ol’ time and heat that did the trick.

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I knew they were done when all could see was grape skins, seeds, and beautiful crimson colored juice.

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My next step was to prepare the fresh grape juice for canning.  I needed to strain all the grape bits from the grape juice.  I have a special tea towel that I keep for this purpose.  It’s been stained by many a batch of gorgeous colored juices.  Mostly prickly pear juice and cranberry juice.  It’s an ugly thing by now, but why continue to ruin good towels?

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See how pathetic it is?  I’m almost embarrassed to share it publicly.  I’m just bein’ real here.  Anyway…when you strain liquids through a towel like this, it is VERY important that the towels is damp.  I say this because more times than not I forget…and then it takes 23 million times longer for the juice to pass through the towel.  I don’t know why…I didn’t pay attention in physics class or whatever class taught why on earth that would be the case.  Please, just learn from my mistakes.  Oh ya, and put a big strainer on top of the bowl first, then the towel.  I’ve never made that mistake…ok, I have.  Why lie?

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After everything was all set and my towel was dampened, I just poured it all into the towel-covered strainer.  I let it drain for awhile and then prepared it to drip “overnight.”

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I wish I had some really elaborate and fancy way of tying towels to hang and drip, but I don’t.  I just tie opposite corners a bunch of times, stick a spoon through an opening, and then hang it on a cupboard door.  You’re supposed to let it drip overnight.  And, you’re supposed to refrain from squeezing the dripping towel-bag.  But, I am impatient.  I let it drip for an hour or so and inevitably I squeeze it at least once.  When it was done dripping to my satisfaction, I composted the bits and measured out the juice.

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Jelly is really only juice, sugar and pectin.  And to make it, you just boil it and put it in jars.  I haven’t purchased jam or jelly since I figured that out.  Why was canning so intimidating?  I should’ve started YEARS before I did.  This is the recipe I used to make and can the jelly.  Super simple, and delicious.

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And look at how beautiful it turned out!!!

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Sarah
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