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Scuppernong Jelly.

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.

Ingredients:
6lbs of washed scuppernongs*
Water
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!

 
This recipe made 10 eight ounce jars of jelly for me.
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Soap Pencil Lines.

I love trolling the net looking at pictures of hand crafted soaps. In fact, it’s become an extension of my soap obsession. But I guess it’s time well spent as I do use it for research for designing upcoming soaps. Or at least, that’s the story I’m going with 😉

 
One of the things I’ve noticed a lot of soapers doing is pencil lines. What is a pencil line? Notice in the pictures below, the dark line running through each bar. It’s such a simplistic and modern look, and while I don’t usually like simple (or modern), I love the look of pencil lines. I’ve done it three times, now, and each time has presented its own challenges. And while all three times, the soap hasn’t turned out exactly as I’d hoped, they’re still nice looking. And I’ve learned with soap making that the soaps that don’t turn out perfectly like I want them to are usually the first ones to sell out 😉

These are the most recent two soaps made this past weekend:

Japanese Cherry Blossom (the pink was colored with Cosmetic Fluorescent Strong Pink, the white with Titanium Dioxide, and the pencil line was made with Activated Charcoal).

Bay Rum (uncolored – this fragrance oil has a .3% vanilla content, so it should darken somewhat- and the pencil line was made with Black Walnut Hulls Powder).

Pencil lines are essentially a thin layer of powder (such as micas, activated charcoal, cocoa powder, ground coffee, etc) sandwiched between two layers of soap. To achieve this effect, you can use a tea infuser or a small mesh sifter (which is what I used).

Once the first layer of soap is poured into the mold, simply dust a small spoonful of your chosen powder on top of it. The fun part is that you can make the pencil line straight or jagged just by smoothing out the first layer soap or leaving it more texturized. After you’ve added the pencil line carefully wipe the sides of the mold to clean up the excess powder. Now, it’s time to add the second layer of soap. So that the second layer of soap doesn’t break through and disrupt the line, pour it over a spoon or spatula.

Tip: When you cut the soap, turn the whole loaf on it’s side. This keeps the pencil line from being dragged through the whole bar of soap. This also works great when you slice soap that is topped with oatmeal, jojoba beads, calendula, chamomile, etc. Also, wipe the blade of your cutter clean after each time. 

My soap cutter is unfortunately not tall enough to cut soap on its side, so I had to use a knife. And I am horrible at cutting straight, even bars using a knife. So, before I do any more pencil line soaps, I’m going to have to purchase a different cutter – maybe a good cheese slicer like this one here.


 

Updated on February 14, 2015:

Two years later, and this is still one of my favorite soap making techniques. In fact, browse our Etsy shop and you’ll almost always see at least one pencil line soap (check out our shop here).

 A couple of recent pencil line soaps:

Japanese Cherry Blossom. . . . same scent and same design from above.

IMG_3114

 

Indian Sandalwood with a very thin line of gold mica (brown swirls were colored using cocoa powder). . . .

Fallen Leaves with a thin line of gold mica (colored with titanium dioxide, red oxide, and Moroccan Clay).

Tips I’ve learned over the last couple of years. . . . 

A cheese slicer is a fantastic cutter for pencil line soaps.

Always turn the soap loaf on its side while cutting to avoid smearing the pencil line.

Use the smallest sifter possible to avoid getting your pencil line colorant on the sides of the soap mold. I now use one even smaller than the one pictured above.

It’s a fine balance between too much and too little. . . . Too little and the pencil line doesn’t show up as well. Too much and the soap might split in half right at the pencil line.

Use a vegetable peeler to clean up the sides of the bars and make them neater.