We are lucky to have some old, robust Concord grape vines behind the garage. 20 minutes spent with the step and extension ladders and a bowl and kitchen shears yielded- after tossing the stems, plus rotten and green fruit- 7 1/2 pounds of beautiful ripe grapes. Now I’m from Concord, MA, and grape picking and jelly-making were an annual ritual for us. My Grandmother was an expert jam & jelly maker, and my Mom was pretty good too. She always made time to go pick the grapes, and we had a couple of good spots not too far from the house that nobody else ever bothered with.
I find this to be true today, nearly everywhere I go; there’s high-end wild food that goes untouched all over the place, whether here, or in Provence where we gathered almonds, figs, and cherries (not to mention wild arugula and herbs) or Puerto Rico where we got armloads of ripe avocados and mangoes by the side of the road, or in Vermont, where the berries droop off the vines. Now I know that in such places many people have their own sources- gardens or secret patches- but given the availabilty, preservability, and zero cost of such things, I do still find it surprising that more people aren’t out foraging for these delicacies.
Our fruit, cooked down with a bit of honey and agave syrup, strained, then mixed with a low-sugar pectin (you add calcium which helps it set without excessive sugar) gave us 4 1/2 pints of beautiful jelly that’s not too sweet and tastes exactly like the air behind the garage smells in these magically ripe late summer days- like my childhood.