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Virginia Willis' Scuppernong Jelly

Virginia Willis' Scuppernong Jelly

Serves: Makes 8 half-pint jars

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32 cups scuppernong or musadine grapes (about 12 pounds)
6 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Pinch fine sea salt


Wash the fruit and remove the stems. Place the fruit in a large, stainless steel or enamel pot, and using your hands, a fork or a potato masher, mash the grapes until no large pieces of fruit remain. Add just enough water to keep the mixture from sticking and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until very juicy, about 20 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a jelly bag and let hang over a bowl for at least 6 hours, or up to overnight. (I usually hang it on a cabinet doorknob over the kitchen counter and place a pot or large measuring cup underneath.)

Measure the juice; you should have about 16 cups.

When you are ready to make the jelly, place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. (This will help with cleanup of any possible spills.) Place several small plates in the freezer to use later for testing the consistency of the jelly.

Prepare a boiling water canner and sterilize eight half-pint canning jars (see note). Remove the jars from the water and place upside down to drain on the prepared rack. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the pickles. Do not boil the lids.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the scuppernong juice, sugar, lemon juice and salt to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. The mixture will bubble up, rising high up the sides of the saucepan. Using a slotted spoon, skim off any light-colored foam as it collects on the edges. Cook the jam until it reaches the jelling point, 220 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 30 minutes. (To test the jelly without a thermometer, dribble a few drops on one of the frozen plates; if the jelly is ready, it will crinkle on the plate when you push it with your finger. If it doesn't crinkle, continue to boil the jelly for another 5 minutes and test again.)

Remove the jam from the heat. For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the jelly, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom between the top of the jelly and the top of the jar. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel, and tightly secure the lids.

Using tongs, place the jars on the rack in the boiling water canner. The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Cover the canner. Return the water to a boil and boil gently for 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the jars to a towel to cool. If the seal works and fits properly, the metal lid will be slightly concave within 24 hours of processing.

Store the unopened jars of jam at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once the jars are opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Variation: For refrigerator or freezer jam, transfer the mixture to sterilized freezer-safe plastic containers or freezer-safe jars with lids, leaving 1 inch of headroom. Freeze for up to 1 year or refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Photo Credit: Virginia Willis

About the recipe

Muscadines are wild American grapes native to the Southeast. Scuppernongs are a variety of muscadines. Both grapes have a tough, thick skin that ranges in color from deep purple to greenish bronze.

To pre-sterilize jars using a boiling water canner, place the cleaned jars right-side-up on a rack in a canner and fill the jars and canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for 10 minutes (at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation). Do not boil the lids. When you are ready to fill the jars, remove the jars one at a time with the canning tongs, carefully emptying the water from the jars them back into the canner. Let the jars air dry and sit undisturbed until you're ready to fill them.