Waste Not, Want Not

Elise StimacFarm Life, Recipes2 Comments

Pinot Noir grape jelly made from the Precoce clone at Three Feathers Estate & Vineyard.
Jam jars full of Pinot Noir Grape Jelly

Pinot Noir jelly made from the Precoce clone of Torio Vineyard.

Brix, Birds and The Worlds Most Expensive Jelly

As I explained last year in my recipe for Blackberry Pinot Noir Sauce, I have a problem with wasting grapes.

During pre-harvest months, while we wait for the grapes to ripen, a lot of testing is done to gauge the sugar level in the grapes.  If I am being very stingy, I take one big fat grape, squeeze the juice onto the portable refractometer and check the sugar level that way.  As we get closer to Harvest, however, I must pick numerous clusters, crush the grapes to extract the juice and and test it.  Most of the time the grapes and the juice after discarded after testing.

Portable refractometer to measure grape sugar levels

Portable refractometer for measuring grape sugar levels.

I have found that Pinot Noir grapes make marvelous jelly. The seeds are full of pectin, the substance that allows the juice to gel, so it is easy to cook up a batch from the juices after testing. I make a few jars at a time. When I told Dan, my winemaker at Lady Hill, he said, “ well, that must be the world’s most expensive jelly”; so that’s what I call it!

One of the clones in Torio Vineyard (our second vineyard property), is an early ripening varietal called Precoce. We planted it keeping in mind our higher elevation and the advantages of a quicker ripening clone; an advantage that depends on a short cool vineyard season.  This year, however, has been a warmer vineyard season with little rain.  The Precoce has ripened before our other fruit and we had to make a strategic decision between holding it longer on the vine to pick with the other fruit, or picking it earlier and making a separate wine. Our solution this year is to tackle the logistical challenge by covering the plants with netting and waiting until the whole vineyard is ready for picking.

Ripening Pinot Noir grapes on the vine, Precoce clone

Ripening Pinot Noir grapes on the vine, Precoce clone, protected by bird netting before harvest.

This is where the birds come in.  As the fruit gets to 21-22 Brix, the birds find it very attractive.  Without netting there would be no fruit to pick by the time the other plants are ready. We only netted the mature plants, however, thereby leaving several uncovered rows to our feathered friends.  What could I do with the fruit before the birds ate it all?  Make the Worlds Most Expensive Jelly!

2 Comments on “Waste Not, Want Not”

    1. We used a generic grape jelly recipe for this. Pinot Noir grapes have a considerable amount of pectin that helps to jellify successfully. Beyond that, any reliable grape jelly recipe should work!

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