Wild Mustang Grape Jelly Revisited


I am sad to report that my “secret spot”for picking the Mustang Grapes was cut back by the City of Houston this spring so I was forced to find another source. I was able to forage a little over 3 gallons of grapes. It is a hot sweaty endeavor to gather up the grapes as they ripen at the beginning of July. It was 95 degrees F and 80+% humidity when I was picking. I was thoroughly soaked when finished.

Many times I can find nice clusters like this but most of the time I’m not so lucky. Photo from the attached article- I can’t take credit for it.

Preparation of the grapes takes some time. I spend the time to de-stem all of the grapes but have discovered that the time consuming effort may be a bit of overkill. I am attaching a link to a recipe that simplifies the process and leaves the stems on. Just a note, I do not wear gloves when I pick and then de-stem the grapes. My hands have experienced a mild but persistent itching sensation for a day plus after handling the grapes. I will use glove next time both while picking and then skip the de-stemming step.

My recipe calls for 5 cups of strained juice….. I don’t force it through the cheesecloth as I like clear jelly. The jelly is a very sweet yet tart jelly with 7 cups of sugar. I use Sure Jell pectin and a tablespoon of butter. I find that I need to boil it at a full rolling boil for almost 6 minutes before it reaches the jelling point I like. The boiling process foams up very high so a deep pot is a necessity. I find that once removed from the heat the foam falls quickly and leaves little if any foam to skim off before ladling into the jars. I process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The photos don’t quite do it justice. The color of this jelly is amazing! I made 6 sample/gift size jars with this batch. I will make a couple more batches for a total of 30+/- half pint jars. And yes, I will part with a half pint jar for $6.00 or an appropriate barter!

The attached article has a recipe that differs very little from mine but does include a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to aid in the setting of the jelly and a 1/4 cup less grape juice. A word of advice, unless you have large sized equipment, do single batches and always measure everything meticulously. Test your jelly to ensure it has boiled long enough. The attached article as a great explanation and photos illustrating how to check your jelly.




Waiting on Garden Photos


I have been in California since July 3rd and won’t return until the 24th. I have left others at the house in charge of my vegetable patch. I am hoping for the best. Even though I left good instructions I think my garden misses my dirty hands….. It’s not that others can’t do what I do but I would suggest that my soul and the soul of my garden have a stronger connection. I am missing my visual fix, my fix from the garden/earthy odors and the fix I get from sampling the bounty.

My son Joe is at the house now….I asked him to send some current photos……he said he would –  when got around to it. Now I suspect that was  a literal comment and he is hunting for a “roudtuit”! Once he finds it it I am sure he will then send me some photos for my visual fix!

Here is what I remember….. and what I need to see more of!

Wine Barrel Composter

Wine Barrel Composter

Gate to my Garden

Gate to my Garden

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The pole bean arches with some red blossoms.

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM - today's storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

The May 10th tomatoes picked in the dark. Dark at 10:30 AM. Yes AM – today’s storm is very dark. 4 inches per hour of rain heading our way!

One of the many blackberry clusters.

One of the many blackberry clusters.

Celebrity Variety - 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

Celebrity Variety – 4-5 inch size and does well when it is hot.

Some of my Swiss Chard

Some of my Swiss Chard

All is not lost…..I have been up and down the state of California traveling through those commercial sized gardens and orchards. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, citrus, avocados in the orchards. Fields of strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, onions, cabbage and more. Last Friday I sat a the in-laws place watching polo on some of the most verdant grass you have ever seen!

Prince William galloping across the verdant grass on his way to scoring a goal in the 2011 match in Santa Barbara.

Prince William galloping across the verdant grass on his way to scoring a goal in the 2011 match in Santa Barbara. From the in-laws patio!

Joe – I am still waiting!!!!!



California Dreamin’

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Graceful and Uuuuuugly

No, I wasn’t really calling it a winter’s day and “all the leaves are brown” but I was dreaming of owning my own piece of ground in California. I spent a week in California, five days in Bakersfield and then a quick visit over to see mom in Los Osos. I am  envious as I drive through fields of green and, in this case, field of orange pumpkins. The little valley on the way to mom’s house has the most beautiful dark – almost like dark chocolate-colored soil. Cabbages, broccoli, lettuces, sunflowers, seed flowers of brilliant hues, winter squashes and the list goes on. In the rolling hills are cattle grazing in lush pastures…Does it get any better than this?

My dreamin’ continued as I took a back road to avoid the construction delays on Highway 101. I cut over at Santa Margarita, through to Creston and hooked back into the Highway at Shandon. I fell in love….Santa Margarita area is temptress, rolling hills, big oaks, digger pines and beautiful little ranchettes. The seduction was complete as I rolled through Creston. I heard the Syrens song – I almost stopped and dug my hands in the soil. Here is a place where your California Dreams of getting back to the land can become reality. Warm summers with cooler nights, temperate year round, open spaces and rolling hills. The view is made up of vineyards, pastures, grazing animals, wonderful plots of land …… I didn’t ask about mosquitos! I think I could put up with them here…….I get so tired of them in Houston.

Note to wife….. Kathy – somewhere down the road we may want to consider a little hideaway in these hills. Still close to the beaches but not overrun with tourists and other crazies.

I also chastised my self for not pictorially documenting my field of dreams – oh yes, did I mention corn??? I had my camera and with all the beautiful land around me …..  all  I captured was the image of a buzzard. Now, don’t get me wrong they are beautiful in their own right – graceful in the air as they glide along the ridges searching for their next meal. But on the ground – butt ugly

The drive along Highway 46 back over to I-5 is a growers smorgasbord. Grapes of all types, table grapes green and red, wine grapes, olive tree, pistachios, almonds, citrus, cotton, hay, carrots, black-eyed peas, and so much more. Last spring I was driving along  I-5 and saw some little trees that where both new and, to me , unrecognizable. On this trip I saw that they were loaded up with pomegranates. Oh my…… I absolutely love pomegranate jelly and my mouth was watering thinking about a piece of hot toast, melted butter (real butter!!!!) and pomegranate jelly.

This is my California Dreamin”!!!!!!! Hun….. I want to share it with you. XOXO – Bishop

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