It’s that time of year again! Scuppernong picking season. Our vine is loaded down with lots of delicious grapes – one of the best harvests we’ve had in years. Coincidentally, it’s also one of the worst love bug seasons we’ve had in years, too. Huh, wonder if they’re connected in some way? Anyways, back to a more important subject 🙂
For those that aren’t in the know (let’s face it, not very many people outside the deep South have ever even heard of them), scuppernongs are a type of muscadine grape that is native to the Southeastern US. You’re probably more likely to have heard of muscadines than scuppernongs, especially if you’ve spent any time at all listening to country music (muscadine wine is a topic than many songwriters have waxed lyrical about, case in point, this song here or here or here or here or . . . there’s plenty more, but I’ll stop there). They’re known by various names, such as, sculpins, scupadines, scufadines, scupanons, etc. I grew up calling them scuplins (or scuplings, when I feel like enunciating).
What makes scuppernongs special from regular muscadine grapes (by the way, all scuppernongs are muscadines, but not all muscadines are scuppernongs, if that makes sense), is that they are a light greenish bronze color instead of purplish. Their taste is difficult to describe, but it’s similar to the grapes you would buy in the grocery store with a kinda of slight muskiness and tartness added in. The texture is also similar, but with a thicker skin and large seeds. When I was growing up, my cousins and I spent many a afternoon at my Granddad’s scuppernong vine enjoying skin and seed spitting contests. I was the youngest grandchild pitted against two older boy cousins and never managed to win (but I bet I could, now).
Drive down a country road this time of the year in my neck of the woods and you’ll see homes with scuppernong arbors in the yard and possibly even a homemade sign or two advertising the fruit for sale. They’re a hugely popular fruit around here with a deeply entrenched history in the South. Did you know, scuppernongs were first mentioned in 1524 in the logbook of Giovanni de Verrazzano while he was exploring North Carolina? Decades later, Governor Ralph Lane wrote to Sir Walter Raleigh, “We have discovered the main to be the goodliest soil under the cope of heaven, so abounding with sweet trees that bring rich and pleasant grapes of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater. . .” Good stuff, huh?
Now, you may be wondering what you can do with scuppernongs. Well, you can make wine out of them (scuppernong wine was a particular favorite of Thomas Jefferson), preserves, baked goods, juice, syrup, jelly, or enjoy them fresh. One of my favorites is the jelly. . . warm biscuits just out of the oven with a little bit of scuppernong jelly is my version of heaven on Earth.
Which brings me to scuppernong jelly 🙂 So far, I’ve picked over 8lbs of scuppernongs this year, twice the amount I picked last year.
Of course, I just had to make some of those scuplins into jelly, right? It’d be a shame not to.
6lbs of washed scuppernongs*
1 box of pectin (plus a spare box in case you need it)
4 – 5 cups of sugar
*Our scuppernong vine produces the smaller variety, but I’ve seen some of the larger variety sold in stores in our area. If you use a larger scuppernong, you might want to reduce the amount you use.
1) Place the thoroughly washed scuppernongs in a large pot and cover with water. Allow them to simmer for 20 minutes, all the while using a potato masher to pulverize the grapes. I consider this free therapy and a great way to work out all my frustrations, and you know me, I love anything free 🙂
2) Pour the cooked scuppernongs through a strainer into another pot. Use the potato masher to ensure you get as much of the juice as you can.
3) Bring the juice to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.
4) Add the pectin to the juice and stir well until it’s all dissolved.
5) Bring to a boil again and stir in the sugar, allowing the mixture to come to a hard boil (or about 220F on a candy thermometer) for a full minute. Test to see if your juice has jellied using the instructions in your pectin box. If it hasn’t, add more pectin, stirring well to prevent it from clumping.
6) Skim any foam off the top of the juice, then pour into sterilized jars and crew the lids on. Place each jar in a large pot with enough water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the water and dry off the jars. And enjoy!