Sea grapes grow all along Florida’s coastline. Distinguished by large heart-shaped leaves, woody stems and 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?
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.
Sea grapes cannot be normally purchased at markets. They are usually gathered near coastal waterways or at the beach throughout Central and South Florida. Ranging in color from lime green to dark purple, look for the medium purple grapes. Using a bucket, comb your finger over the grapes. The ripe ones should come off easily.
The ingredients are relatively simple and the results are authentic!
Authentic Florida Sea Grape Jelly
8 cups of sea grapes
4 cups of water
5 cups of sugar
1 box (1.75 oz.) of Sure Jell pectin (a thickener found in the baking section of the grocery store)
2 limes (1/4 cup of lime juice)
½ teaspoon butter
8 (½ pint) canning jars
1 potato masher
1 stainless steel pot (6-plus quarts)
1 large colander
1 package of cheescloth or two pieces of cheesecloth, 2 feet long each
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 75 minutes until the seeds begin to break away from the fruit and the skins soften. Press with a potato masher to further loosen the fruit.
Now you’ll want 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!
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.