Friday, August 24, 2012

Scuppernong Jelly

For my non-Southern readers, a scuppernong is a green/bronze variety of muscadine, which is a wild-ish grape that grows everywhere in late summer here in the Deep South. Muscadines LOVE our hot and humid weather, and are usually used for two things here: wine and jelly. They have a tough skin and big seeds, and the taste is almost impossible to accurately describe. 

 Out of all muscadines (most are usually a deep maroon/purple color), I prefer scuppernongs, which are a bit bigger, and usually green. I've seen them growing wild dozens of times, especially in Hoover's Moss Rock Preserve! Scuppernongs get their unique name from North Carolina's Scuppernong River, which gets its name from the Algonquin ascupernung, meaning "home of the ascopo (sweet bay tree)".  

Around here, scuppernongs and muscadines are coming into season and popping up in pretty much every grocery store and farmer's market around. For the uninitiated, these can be eaten plain; simply pinch the skin opposite of the skin, which will break the skin and release the fruit and all the succulent juices. You can swallow the seeds if you wish, or simply spit them out. Some folks will eat the skins, but I definitely don't recommend it. I also don't recommend getting TOO crazy with eating fresh scuppernongs & muscadines; their flavor is addictive, but they can result in an unwelcome case of the "howlin' skitters". You can thank John Steinbeck for THAT warning. 

Me? I leave the wine-making to the many talented vineyards here in Alabama (these guys are my favorite!) and stick to jams and jellies. 

In fact, the summer that I decided to get into canning, I filled an entire 3-tiered shelf with canned goodies. From strawberry preserves, to kiwi jam and jalapeno jelly, I was a MACHINE.

If you're afraid of making your own jams and jellies, don't be. With powdered or liquid pectin available in most grocery stores, you no longer have to depend on a candy thermometer and all of the gel/soft ball/hard ball testing. Pectin is simply a gelling agent, typically extracted from apples, and makes jelly-making ALMOST foolproof. And, if you're curious what separates jams from jellies, it's this: Jellies are made from the juice of the fruit; jellies are always clear and homogenous. Jams are made from the crushed fruit, so there are always bits of the fruit in the mixture. Easy, huh? 

Now, if you've got a bunch of scuppernongs, go grab a box of pectin and let's do this. I promise it will be worth the effort once you spread this jelly on a toasted english muffin. Plus, you can give away the extra jars as gifts (or just keep them for yourself as a delicious reminder of a job well done!). 

Scuppernong Jelly

3 1/2 lbs ripe bronze scuppernongs
2 cups filtered water
2 tsp bottled lemon juice*
1 box dry pectin
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Yield: 07 8oz jelly jars

*Bottled lemon juice is actually better than fresh for canning recipes, since the acidity levels are more constant. With fresh fruit, it can vary wildly. 

Remove any stems from the scuppernongs and add to a large saucepan. Add the water and bring to a boil; as the mixture is heating up, crush the fruits with a potato masher. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. 

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any 'large' solids. I like to then run the solids through a food mill to get every last bit of the juices. I then strain the liquid through a jelly bag/chinois strainer or a double thickness of cheesecloth. Muslin, cheap and readily available at any fabric shop, also works really well. Don't be tempted to push the mixture through the cheesecloth, or squeeze the jelly bag to speed up the process - this results in cloudy juice and cloudy jelly. Reserve 5 cups of this juice; if short of 5 cups, simply add water or even white grape juice to make up the difference. 

I lucked out and ended up with right at 5 cups! 

I usually make the juice the day before I plan to make jelly. It keeps well in a glass container in the fridge. 

Once ready to make jelly, prepare your canner and jars; click HERE for my previous how-to post on canning! Measure out the sugar into a bowl and set aside (you want to add it all at once, rather than having to measure out each cup at a time). 

In a large Dutch oven, combine the strained scuppernong juice with the lemon juice and dry powdered pectin. Bring to a full, ROLLING boil (a boil that can't be stirred down), and add the sugar all at once. 

Return to a full rolling boil, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off any foam and ladle into prepared jars, leaving a 1/4" headspace. 

Wipe the rims, add the lids and rings, then process in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes. 

Remove from canner and let the jars cool completely. 


  1. Julia, thank you for once again contributing lovely dishes for the collection. Hope you have a great weekend. Cheers

    1. Thank you, Carole! I don't know if you have scuppernongs/muscadines there, but I figured I'd add the recipe anyway :)

  2. I can't wait to try this!! How long does it keep and can you freeze it? Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. It's canned, which means it's shelf-stable for months if not years until opened. Once opened, the jelly should be kept refrigerated. Jellies are not meant to be frozen when canned - there are specific recipes out there for 'freezer jams', but this is not one of those recipes.

  3. I made jelly this evening following this to a 'T'... Worked out well. Thanks!

  4. So do you add sugar and pectin at same time?

  5. So do you add sugar and pectin at same time?

    1. No!!!! Read again, carefully. I made this mistake once. Had syrup. Not jelly.

      Pre measure your sugar. Add all at once. Making jelly/jams can be like baking. Precise.

      I always have to read and reread recipes to make sure I get it. Don't want to waste money or ingredients.