There was a fine drizzle of rain as we walked down the dirt road that runs in front of our house, looking for the muscadines that grow wild this time of year.
The vines were tangled high in the evergreen trees, we stood up on our tiptoes to grab handfuls, tumbling them into our basket. Their colors vary from nearly black to the prettiest shade of purple I've ever seen.
Muscadines are so fragrant, deep and rich, vaguely winey. I brought them inside, cut them open, and set them to simmer down into a syrup, the scent filling the house, lingering in every corner.
My mom has been telling me about her grandmothers muscadine jelly since I was a little girl. She waxes poetic about the sweet stuff, but I never had the chance to meet my great-grandmother, or taste her jelly. As I was standing over the bubbling pot, I felt connected to this woman I never met. It's funny (and wonderful) how food can do that.
I didn't have quite enough juice to make jelly, so I decided on a syrup, ruby red & sweet. It'd be great over biscuits or pancakes, even ice cream. I stirred a spoonful into a cup of hot black tea. Next time I'm going to turn it into muscadine sorbet.
1 cup muscadine juice*
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
To release the juice, cut open your muscadines and place in a stock pot. Fill pot with water, just covering the muscadines. Simmer for 15 minutes, mashing occasionally with a potato masher. Pour fruit through a mesh strainer, pressing hard on the solids, (I then placed the skins in a lemon juicer, to extract as much juice as possible), into another stock pot. Add sugar and lemon juice, and bring the juice to a boil, then allow to simmer. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon. Pour into clean jar. Can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
*You want equal parts juice & sugar. If you have more/less juice, just add the same amount of sugar. I started with about 4 cups of muscadines and got 1 cup of juice.