We made wild possum grape jelly this past fall on a whim and it was some of the best jelly i've ever had. I'd seen these little grapes around but never tried them. I remember Deane teaching about the tendril,woody stem and seeds so I figured it was worth a shot even if they were jet black and very small, cue ominous music.
The grape is sweet and then it stings your lip because of the extremely high acid content (more on this later) sort of a hot pepper feeling on the lips. My young sons and I picked as many as we could and got some strange looks and questions from people who had never eaten them either but had always seen them when they were in the woods; I also got into some red bugs which was exciting but I guess thats the risk you take.
I mixed up some basic jelly recipes from different sources and it came out great. If I'd have done it a month before hand i'd have entered it in the state fair because I thought it was that good and pretty so there you go.
1) Pick a bunch of possum grapes. We picked about four quarts which took some time though it was not difficult on a good vine. You need enough juice for the pectin pack which I think is about 4 or so.
2) Clean the grapes and remove any old bad ones, stems, leaves etc. then put them in a pot and here is where the plans diverge. I used a little water and a little heat and mashed the juice out being careful not to smash any seeds. I think using heat is a big risk because the seeds could heat and impart bad flavor so be aware of this. Either way, don't break the seeds.
3) I put the mash mix in a muslin cloth and strained the juice into another pot. I figured since I regularly eat scuppernongs and other muscadines that I'd disregard Deane's advice about wearing gloves. This proved to be a bad conclusion to draw. The tartaric acid in the grapes formed crystals that acted like fiberglass on my poor hands so do wear gloves because it isn't a nice experience.
4) Now you have a bowl full of very dark, nearly black foul smelling liquid that just hurt your hands. Never fear, it gets better. To remove the acid put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight and the acid sinks to the bottom in a kind of sludge sediment. The next day pour off the juice but don't scrape the bowl (I strained it again).
5) Put the juice and a package of sure-jell in a pot and boil it, add five cups of sugar and about 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then put it in your prepared jars.
That's it. Everything else is online. This is super easy and the color and taste is like school house grape jelly but its prettier and tastes much better.