Sea Grape Jelly brings to mind grapes growing by the seaside but that is not the true picture. Instead imagine a small tree (up to 30 ft. tall) loaded with bunches of green/purple fruit at the seaside. The fruit is mostly seed covered by some pulp. You can find this fruit in Texas from September through November. The leaves are large, glossy, and round. The tree is common in the American tropics near ocean beaches. Sea Grape is useful not only for jelly and jam making but also for stabilizing dunes. It is common in Florida and less so in the southern tip of Texas.
Most people go to the beach to frolic in the waves but I go to make jelly. While my wife and her sister were sitting in a hot tub enjoying a fall day at the beach, I tried to find as many of the bunches of sea grapes that I could. That is easier said than done because even though it was halfway through the time for the fruit, there were few ripe ones on the tree. Where were the ripe ones? Looking at the ground held the answer. Most of the ripe ones had fallen to the ground. The fruit does not fall as a bunch, rather falling one at a time. Therefore the ripe ones fall off, often helped by the birds who seem to flock to the tree. What was I going to do to get enough ripe fruit? An earlier experiment had told me that if I picked the fruit green they would eventually ripen off the plant. So I picked every bunch of fruit that had at least three or four ripe fruit on it. I did that with a pair of garden pruners. Then at the hotel that night I sorted through the bunches, picking out the ripe ones and placing them in their own bucket. I had picked three buckets of fruit and ended up with one bucket of ripe fruit. The other two buckets slowly ripened when I took them home. However, one bucket of fruit (8 cups) was enough to make a good batch of the tasty jelly.
After washing the fruit to remove salt, sand, and insects, I measured out 8 cups of ripe fruit to pour into my jelly making kettle. I added just enough water to cover the fruit. I then boiled it long enough for the fruit to change color and get soft. I mashed up the fruit with my potato masher, I then poured juice and pulp into my food mill which mashed up the fruit even more.
This last step could be skipped on this fruit since the pulp does not come off the seed very easily. I then poured the juice through a cheese cloth. This gave me a juice that had a dark pink color. I then added the sugar, and then the no sugar needed pectin. The addition of the sugar changed the jelly to an attractive red color. After letting the jelly cool slightly I poured it into freezer containers. After the jelly had cooled and jelled, I placed the jelly into my freezer.
4 cups of Sea Grape juice
3 cups of sugar
1 pkg of no sugar needed pectin