Monday, September 30, 2019

It's Scuppernong Season

Scuppernongs are a green-gold variety of the sweet and fragrant muscadine grapes
that grow in parts of the South. The house I called home until I was an adult had a
glorious Scuppernong arbor in the backyard. Picking the thick-skinned, seed-laced
grapes became a family affair each September. With a bowl in hand and my feet
on a stool, even as a child, I treasured those grapes as much as gold. The sweet but
slightly sour aroma that marked the beginning of fall will forever be in my memory.

Scuppernong Jelly 
3 qt. ripe Scuppernong grapes (about 5 lb.)
3 cheesecloth sheets
4 to 6 (8-oz.) canning jars with two-piece lids
2 1⁄2 to 3 1⁄4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 (1 3⁄4-oz.) package powdered pectin

1. Wash Scuppernongs; place in a 6-qt. stainless-steel or enameled Dutch oven,
or other large, heavy, nonreactive saucepan. Add 1 cup water, and bring to
a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, 20 minutes or until most of seeds have been
released from pulp, crushing Scuppernongs with a potato masher to slip skins
from pulp.

2. Rinse cheesecloth, and wring out excess water. Line a large colander with
cheesecloth. Set colander over a large bowl or pot. Pour Scuppernong mixture
into cheesecloth, and let stand at least 1 hour. Measure liquid (you should have
about 41⁄2 cups), and return to Dutch oven, discarding solids.

3. Sterilize jars, and prepare lids as described below. 

4. While jars are boiling, add 3⁄4 cup sugar for each 1 cup juice to Scuppernong
juice in Dutch oven. Add lemon juice. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil 5 minutes,
stirring frequently.

5. Sprinkle in pectin, stir well, and return to a rolling boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove
from heat, and let stand until boiling subsides. Skim foam from surface with a
metal spoon, and discard.

6. Fill and process jars as described below. Store properly sealed jars in a
cool, dark place. Let stand at least 1 week before serving to allow jelly to fully
set. Serve on biscuits or with Brie and crackers, if desired.

Makes: 4 to 6 (8-oz.) jars 
Hands-on Time: 45 min. Total Time: 1 hr., 41 min., plus 1 week standing time

General Canning Instructions:
To prepare for canning: Use only glass jars specifically designed for home canning, and two-piece lids. Jars and lid rings can be reused, but you must use new flat lids, which can be purchased separately. Be sure that jars, rings, and lids are clean, and that the jars are undamaged, the rims free of chips.

To sterilize jars and prepare lids: Put the jars on a rack in the bottom of a large pot and cover with water. (You can use a specially designed canning pot or any large stock pot as long as it has a rack to hold the jars off the bottom and is deep enough that they can be covered with water and not overflow when the water boils.) Cover the pot and bring to a full boil. Boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize the jars, then lower the heat and keep at a brisk simmer until the preserve or jam is ready.

Put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl; make sure they are not stacked tightly together. Just before filling the jars, ladle simmering water from the canning pot into the bowl to cover the lids. 

Keep the rings handy, along with a wide-mouth funnel, the ladle for filling the jars, a thin plastic utensil for removing air bubbles, a jar lifter, and a clean paper towel. Put a clean folded towel on the counter near the canning pot, and a second folded towel on the counter in a nearby spot where the processed jars can be set to cool undisturbed.

To fill and process jars of fruit preserves, jams, and jellies: Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the simmering water, carefully pouring the water inside them back into the canning pot, and place the jars upright on the first towel. Put the funnel in a jar and ladle in the preserve, jam, or jelly, keeping the ladle low and close to the opening of the funnel to prevent excess bubbles from forming in the jars. Repeat to fill the remaining jars. 

If necessary, use a thin plastic utensil to remove air bubbles around the outside of the jar. 

Dip the paper towel in hot water and use it to wipe the jar rims and threads of any dripped preserves.

Drain the water from the flat lids back into the canning pot. Quickly place a lid, white side down, on each jar, then screw on the rings just finger tight—do not over-tighten. 

Using the jar lifter, return the jars, upright, to the rack in the canning pot and make sure they are covered with water by at least 1 inch. Cover, increase the heat, and bring the water to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes. 

Turn off the heat, uncover the pot, and let stand until the boiling has subsided. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars to the second folded towel, upright, and let cool completely, at least 6 hours. Check to make sure each jar has sealed: If the center of the flat lid cannot be pushed down with your finger, it is sealed; if it depresses and pops up again, it is not sealed and the jar should be refrigerated immediately and the contents used.
Store sealed jars in a cool, dark spot; they will keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Lang from Around the Southern Table (Oxmoor House, 2012) by Rebecca Lang.

Friday, March 8, 2019

16 Tips for Grocery Store Etiquette

I believe the two groups that frequent the grocery store the most are those that work in food and women with children. That leaves me in both groups and nearly qualified to receive mail at my local store. Shopping for groceries can be a relaxing, therapeutic experience when all goes well and nothing short of maddening when it doesn’t. If only all shoppers brushed up on their manners before filling up their carts, grocery shopping would be more enjoyable for all of us.

1.  If you want to pass in front of another shopper while she is looking for an item, saying, “excuse me,” is absolutely necessary.
2.  Do not wander the store talking to friends using a cell phone earpiece. Every other shopper thinks you’re talking to her. No one is so important that they can’t make it through the store without communicating with the outside.
3.  When a mother is desperately trying to calm her crying baby, please be extra sweet to her. I promise, she wants the child to calm down just as much as you do. 
4.  Control your children in the store. Running kids and moving carts do not go together.
5.  If a woman is shopping with more than one child, be overly courteous. Until you’ve shopped with small children, you don’t understand how much easier it is to buy groceries alone.
6.  Look before pulling out at the end of the aisle. It’s a crash waiting to happen.
7. Do not choose produce and then snack on it as you shop. When you're paying by weight, that's stealing. 
8.  Do not begin unloading your cart on the conveyor belt until the person in front of you has completely emptied her cart. 
9.  If someone is behind you in line with one or two items, be kind and let them in front of you.
10.  Do not write a check. If you don’t use credit cards, get cash out of the bank. Others behind you would like to check out in a timely manner.
11.  Clip all coupons at home. During check out is not the time to organize, clip, or choose coupons. 
12.  For those with massive three ring binders of coupons that impressively turn saving money into a job (whom I have the utmost respect for), please tell those behind you in line that they may want to choose another line. It’s going to be a while. 
13.  While in your car, give the right of way to those walking in and out of the store. It’s easy. Just stop your car and wait for shoppers to pass.
14.  As in any other parking lot, turn on your blinker when aiming for a spot. If you see a car waiting with a blinker flashing, that spot is taken. 
15.  Put your cart in the designated place in the parking lot. I don’t want to go home with a ding in my door and neither do you.
16.  Offer to take another’s cart in as you pass by in the parking lot.

(c) 2019 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC