Florida Sea Grapes
Written by Robin Draper, reprinted courtesy of Visit Sarasota
Sea grapes grow all along Florida’s coastline. Distinguished by large heart shaped leaves, woody stems, green and purplish berries, sea grapes are synonymous with Florida’s coastal landscape. But did you know the grapes can be made into delicious jelly?
Florida green sea grapes (unripened)
Ripened Florida sea grapes found along the coastline
Old-timers and newcomers alike enjoy making the classic sea grape jelly and now is a good time to get outdoors, walk the beach and collect the sea grapes.
Looking for sea grapes along the coast (look for the heart-shaped leaves in lower right)
Sea grapes cannot be normally purchased at markets. So this will require an authentic Florida outing. Sea grapes are usually gathered at most any public beach or near coastal waterways throughout central and south Florida. Distinguished by heart shaped leaves, sea grapes generally ripen in the fall, ranging in color from lime green to dark purple. But for picking and harvesting sea grapes, you’ll want to choose the medium purple ones. Using a bucket, comb your finger over the grapes. The ripe ones should fall off easily.
The ingredients are relatively simple and the results are Authentic!
Recipe for Authentic Florida Sea Grape Jelly
Ingredients for making sea grape jelly
8 cups of sea grapes
4 cups of water
5 cups of sugar
1 box (1.75 ounces) of Sure Jell pectin (thickener found in the baking section)
8 – ½ pint canning jars
2 limes (1/4 cup of lime juice)
½ teaspoon butter
1 potato masher
1 stainless steel pot (6+ quarts)
1 large colander
1 package of cheesecloth (cheesecloth recommended), or two pieces of cheesecloth – 2 feet long each
1 large round, hand held mesh strainer (pasta strainer) – if not using cheesecloth
Steps for making Sea Grape Jelly
Collect 8 cups of sea grapes. They should be pinkish-purple (not greenish). Again, ripe grapes should fall into your bucket easily as you comb the fruit from the stem.
Next, rinse the sea grapes in a colander, picking out ones that are unripe.
In a stainless steel pot, place the grapes and water on medium heat (water should cover the grapes) and cook for 1 & 1/4 hours until the seeds begin to break away from the fruit and the skins soften. Press with a potato masher to further loosen the fruit.
Next, your goal is to squeeze the pulp to obtain the juice of the grapes.
Cut two strips of cheesecloth (2 feet long) and spread over a colander that should be sitting on top of a bowl to collect the juice. Then, place the cooked grape mixture into the cheesecloth, enclosing the cloth to form a large tight ball. Squeeze the juice out of the pulp into the bowl. Be patient, it will come!
Place a mesh strainer in a large bowl, and begin spooning the cooked grape mixture into the strainer and press so that the juice drips into the bowl below. You will end up with around 4 cups.
Next, add approximately one cup of water to the pressed remaining juice to make 5 cups total.
Then, in a large pot bring the 5 cups of juice/water, 1 package of Sure Jell, ½ teaspoon butter, 1/4 cup of lime juice to a rolling boil. Slowly add five cups of sugar, stirring. Bring the mixture to another boil for 1 minute.
Pour the jelly mixture into the sterilized canning jars and seal tightly. Let it set up (thicken) overnight.
Enjoy your Authentic Florida Sea Grape Jelly!
Recipe created with my dear childhood friend and Florida native, Lisa Coleman.
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