Oregon Grape Jelly

oregon grapeMy dear professor, Nelson Bentley, used to say that recurring memories are poems waiting to be written.

After visiting a friend’s all-northwest garden Wednesday evening, I woke yesterday morning from a dream — I think it was a dream — of Oregon Grape. At least, I found myself drenched in images of it as I lay awake. A memory or a dream. I remembered that my mother always warned her children not to eat the berries, thinking them poison, but that my dad said that his mother used to make Oregon Grape jelly. The leaves of Oregon Grape are prickly, and the berries are very, very tart. I wondered what led my grandmother to pick such berries, and not other, sweeter berries. I wondered if my dad and his brothers and sister picked berries for her. I wondered why I had never tasted them for myself, or if I had.

I wondered…

I went on-line and found this website, Wild Foods and Medicines, and, on it, these two recipes:

Oregon Grape Jelly

This is a standard jelly recipe with liquid pectin.  I have made it 3 years in a row and the recipe has held up consistently.  Make sure to harvest the berries when they are deep blue.  They will still be tart, but less so than unripe berries. 

  1. Measure 6 cups of cleaned, rinsed Oregon grape berries
  2. Place berries in a cooking pot with 2 cups of water
  3. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 15 minutes.  Use a large spoon to mash the berries against the side of the pot so the juice is released.
  4. Place a Foley food mill over another cooking pot.  In 1 to 2 cup increments, turn the berries and juice through the food mill so that the seeds are separated.  Remove the seeds from the mill before straining another batch.
  5. Once finished, measure your juice/pulp.  It should yield about 3 cups.  If you have less you can add a little water to bring your volume to 3 cups.
  6. Place a pot on the stovetop, add the juice, 1 ounce of pectin (about ½ of a liquid package) and the juice of ½ lemon.  Stir well and then turn onto high heat, stirring consistently.
  7. Once the mixture is boiling, rapidly add 3 cups of sugar, return to a rolling boil and boil for exactly 1 minute.  Remove from the burner.
  8. Place the jelly in clean hot canning jars, wipe the top of the jars to remove any spillage, cover with lids, and can in a water bath for 10 minutes.  If any lids do not seal, refrigerate the jar of jelly and use within three weeks.

OregongrapetoastOregon Grape Lavender Jelly (Low sugar)

I tried this recipe for the first time this year and I like it better than the high sugar jelly.  I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin.  The lavender was a last-minute inspiration since I spied it drying near by – the flavors compliment each other well!  Toast with Oregon grape jelly and an egg has been my daughter Lucy’s “out of this world breakfast.”

  1. Measure 8 cups of clean, rinsed Oregon grape berries.
  2. Place berries in a cooking pot with 2 cups of water.
  3. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 15 minutes as described above.
  4. Process berries and juice through a Foley Food Mill as described above.
  5. Measure 4 cups of the juice/pulp.
  6. Place the juice in a cooking pot, stir in 2 teaspoon of calcium water (included in Pomona’s Pectin, and 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried lavender.
  7. Measure 2 cups of honey and stir in 2 teaspoons of pectin.
  8. Bring the juice to a boil.
  9. Add the honey/pectin and stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes until the mixture returns to a boil.  Remove from heat.
  10. Fill canning jars, seal and can for 10 minutes as described above.

And now I need to find out what a Foley Food Mill is. Or just write a poem.

7 replies
  1. Janet Blumberg
    Janet Blumberg says:

    I’m sure you had one of those old metal grinders racketed onto the edge of your countertop in your mom’s kitchen, didn’t you? (Janine’s mom always uses one and Janine wishes she could find one at a garage sale….)

  2. dawnsullypile
    dawnsullypile says:

    When I read this post I was immediately transported back to the big kitchen of my childhood…an old-fashioned coal stove taking up more space than the more contemporary gas one and the old stove being the place where the making of grape jelly took place…on the other side of the country in NY. The scent fills me even as I write and if I remember correctly, cheesecloth played a large role and then the wax to put on top of the jelly before the lids. Down to the cellar with the dirt floor it went, along with other canned goods. It graced many a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that my dad took to work for lunch every day. Thank you for the memory and for your own experience. Love the addition of the lavender.

  3. Carolynne Harris
    Carolynne Harris says:

    FYI – I have my mom’s foley food mill – we always made applesauce with it. Was impressed to know OREGON GRAPE BERRIES aren’t poisonous. I have a lot of them. At our office at 601 Main. Under the cypress tree on the alley😊🐸

  4. awritersalchemy
    awritersalchemy says:

    Love these comments. I was at Super Supplements yesterday and saw a tincture of Oregon Grape. Now I’m even more curious about it. In my childhood home we always had a wood stove on the porch…for many years the old fashioned kind. Mom canned so much…meat as well as fruit and vegetables. I wish I had a jar of her pear butter!


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