GOURMET GERDE – Grape jelly vs. Country Boys

It’s time for another Gourmet Gerde!

My husband loves jelly. Jelly, jam, whatever. It doesn’t matter what it’s made out of,  just as long as it’s jelled. He would probably eat cat toots as long as they had pectin and came in a squat jar. And being a country boy, he grew up with plenty of sugary preserves. They were NEVER without . . . When the end of the world apocalypse hits and there is no more food, I’m going to Margaret’s. I am confident that his mom will have enough jam to keep me in the sugar low to which I have become accustomed . . . But to get back on topic . . . If his mother, grandmothers, and aunts did not have a homemade kegger of jelly or jam handy, his mom would buy jars of it at Allie’s, their local Mom and Pop store.

Allie’s Store was run by Allie. Obviously. But Allie was very, very old. The contents of her store were also old. Probably older than Allie. Allie sold peanut butter in cans. Cans, not jars. I think the last time they made canned peanut butter was before Germany invaded Poland.  And the candy? The M&M’s were so faded, my husband grew up convinced they came in five shades of brown. The swirly ochre ones were his favorite. If I saw something swirly, ochre, and pellet shaped, I would not eat it. I would bury it.

But to get back on topic . . . My husband Randy has never met a jelly he didn’t like. Too bad he’d never met the grape jelly I grew up with.

In some ways, it fit his criteria: pectin, squat jar . . . And here is a bonus: It was homemade. Homemade from concord grapes handpicked by bored children. Yes, in the fall my brothers and I enjoyed tire swings, riding our bikes, and sharecropping.

This is how it happened:

Mom talked to old people.

The old people told her about a farmer who sold his grapes at a reduced price if you picked them yourself.

So Mom loaded us in her pink Rambler, drove us there, and turned us loose with the instructions to fill the boxes with grapes.

Being the youngest, I was the slowest picker. All I can remember about the event is that I couldn’t bring myself to touch the clusters covered in spider webs and dead flies. That, and I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t find a toilet. I couldn’t even find an adult to ask about the toilet. So I fertilized one of the grape vines. Abundantly. I did not pick from that vine. You’re welcome, Mom.

Here is another bonus that made our grape jelly different than all the others. It came with seeds. I don’t know why. It wasn’t as if we didn’t have a sieve in the house. I can still remember crunching my way through my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at school. There is nothing like the taste of a canned grape seed. When you crack the shell it explodes on your taste buds. And then it takes hours to get that burned rubber taste out of the back of your throat.

But to get to the point . . .

Our home made grape jelly would have defeated my husband.

“That’s some mighty fine jelly, Mizz Barnes . . .”

“Was that a grape seed?!”

Now strawberry jam? My mom made awesome strawberry jam. But not very much of it . . .

Here is my recipe for really good concord grape jelly:

1) Go to Wal-Mart.

2) Buy a jar of Smuckers.

Do you have any of your own food stories you want to share?  You could even tell us about the time you accidentally stabbed yourself trying to make a ham sandwich for your dad. (That will be in another blog.)  All memories are comment fodder.

Remember – to leave a comment click on the ‘Comments’ tag at the end of this blog and type away in the correct slot.

And don’t forget to check out the latest Photo-blog on the right about lies. Filthy grape lies. Just put your cursor over the picture to read the caption, or click on one if you want to leave your comment.

Have fun!

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7 Responses to GOURMET GERDE – Grape jelly vs. Country Boys

  1. Julia says:

    As always…fun to read and hilarious. I can just see your mom doing those things. She is so much fun!

  2. Thea says:

    Thank you, Julia!
    Only those who know her can fully appreciate the visuals one might get from reading this. :)

  3. tina says:

    Yes I have a addition..yesterday after pioneer meeting Lee Ann had pizza n coffee waiting. We are just chatting and all of a sudden I jump up MY EYE LOL MY EYE….pizza sauce jumped off ny pizza into my eye…naughty pizza so I threw it away and enjoyed my coffee

  4. Thea says:

    OUCH, Tina.
    Just . . . OUCH!!
    (But it would have taken more than that to stop me from eating my pizza. Like, maybe, total blindness. . . No . . . that wouldn’t have done it either . . . )
    Hope it didn’t do any damage?

  5. tina says:

    well it wasnt that tasty……

  6. Snuffygump says:

    Too bad I didn’t know about Randy’s jelly/jam fetish. I have made the stuff only once in my life. My friend Cora, who was ranch raised and used to ride on the back of her dad’s horse to school in snow that was up to the horses upper haunches, wanted to teach me how to make Choke Cherry Jelly.
    We raided several wild choke cherry bushes around town, I feeling slightly guilty for taking the berry out of some poor fox or bears mouth. Cora and I actually became quite heady with finding so much abundance in choke cherries that I am afraid that we became greedy. Once back at my house, we displayed our catch, laid out in a neat row, and I took some pictures. Cora then took the mother lode home up to her cabin in the woods.
    I never actually got to do the first part of the jelly making process. Cora took care of that, so it is a mystery to me, that first part. However, I gathered up all the canning jars and such and drove the 10 miles up to Cora’s cabin. Once inside, we got to looking at all our canning supplies and discovered that we didn’t have the right size rings and lids to fit the stupid jars. So back into the van I go and down, back into Anaconda I drive. This added another 20 miles to the cost of these free choke cherries. I didn’t even count in our picking time. Ok, 20 miles later we are ready to cook down the beautiful brilliant red water. That’s what it looked like to my untrained eye….colored water. What the hey happened to all the berry guts and stuff? I didn’t say a word, I was, after all, under the tutelage of a woodland master.
    The cooking commenced, and I stood over the big, giant pot and stirred and stirred……and stirred. Fast forward. Somewhere along the way we added the pectin and, now my memory grows dim. We had been at this process now for what felt like 100 years. At last, we were ready to pour this mixture into the awaiting jelly jars. It was so late by this time, I had to excuse myself and head back down valley, leaving Cora to finish up the pouring of the jars. Memory doesn’t serve me well, but, I must have returned to Cora’s on the following day. This is when I really was introduced to a special offering rendered up, apparently, of the choicest portion of the jelly making process. Cora offered me the first bite and extended to me what looked like a large scab that hadn’t quite healed over and had been picked off of the wound, thus pulling away some of the gooey mass hidden underneath its crust. Cora waited, with beaming eyes, to see my response.
    I couldn’t……I could not make myself even hardly look at the gelatinous mass. Cora explained, “this is the part that my five offspring used to battle over!” I told her she could send it to her daughter Fern with my blessing.
    I never did even taste that jelly. It set up all beautiful and glistening bright red in its little jelly jars. Val and I made a trip to Arkansas and I hauled down about 36 jars, hoping to pawn them all off on my depression era raised folks. Daddy especially would eat anything. My mother, not….she was sooooo picky, especially if I made it.
    My mother ended up eating all 36 jars, all by herself. She said it was the best jelly that she had ever had in her life!
    My loss, her gain.
    I don’t think y’all had returned from you Florida exile at this time, or you could have had some Choke Cherry Jelly.

  7. Thea says:

    Awesome story! You missed out on the Scab Jam. And I don’t even know what a choke cherry is. I’ve got to hit Google for some pictures.

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