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CANNING CAMARADERIE

Bountiful grape arbor brings Reno bunch together.

WRITTEN BY JEANNE LAUF WALPOLE
PHOTOS COURTESY OF VALERIE GLENN

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Nine years ago, when she first wandered through Phyllis Freyer’s backyard, Valerie Glenn, CEO and principal of The Glenn Group in Reno, immediately was fascinated by the profusion of grape vines tucked next to the patio and its adjacent lily-covered koi pond. They were absolutely loaded with scrumptious concord grapes. Although Freyer, a retired vice president of marketing and communications at Renown Health in Reno, had appreciated the vines and fruit for their aesthetic contribution to her delightful backyard, she had never given a thought to what else they might be used for.

As she admired the luscious-smelling fruit, Glenn flashed back to her childhood.

“My mom taught me how to make grape jelly,” Glenn says. “I love to cook, and I have an herb garden and a vegetable garden.”

Glenn suggested to Freyer that they harvest her grapes and make jelly.

With family and friends pitching in, the ritual of making jelly from Freyer’s grapes has evolved over the course of nine years into an annual fall event much anticipated by the group who has dubbed themselves The Bunch. Glenn assumes the role of Jelly Queen by organizing the various steps in the canning process and assigning jobs to those who help.

“We get our assignments,” Freyer says. “We’ve made it into a big party and invited our husbands to take down the grapes. We all start with a glass of Champagne in the morning.”

So why go to all this trouble when you can buy grape jelly at the grocery store? Simply because it tastes better. The Bunch’s grape jelly adds an outrageous burst of fresh grape flavor to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as well as many other delights.

“There’s a ton of grapes, and I want them to be used,” Freyer says. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun and quite a social event.”

With fond memories of her own mother’s home-canned jams and jellies, Jeanne Lauf Walpole is impressed by The Bunch’s Concord Grape Jelly.

Recipe

The Bunch’s Concord Grape Jelly

(courtesy of Valerie Glenn, The Bunch’s Jelly Queen)

The list of grape jelly ingredients is ridiculously simple:

Concord grapes

White sugar

Fresh apple

The amounts depend upon how many pounds of grapes are harvested, but about 1 pound of grapes produces one ½-pint jar of jelly.

Pick and de-stem grapes. Wash grapes thoroughly, put in large pot on stove, and add ¼ fresh apple.

Smash some grapes and cook over medium heat until soft. Remove grape mixture from pot and put through food mill. Measure only resulting juice and return it to pot. Add equal amount of white sugar to juice and boil until sugar dissolves.

Meanwhile, sterilize Ball jars, lids, and rings in boiling water for two minutes. Carefully pour grape mixture into jars and seal lids. Naturally occurring pectin in grapes and apple with thicken juice as it cools. 

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