Oregon Grapes - A tart taste explosion in deer country

2019 - Kjell Hedström

W hen scouting I was pleasantly surprised to see the hill sides literally shining with specks of blue. The Oregon Grapes are having a great year and from beginning of August till end of the month is a great time to pick them.


The O.grapes are tart. Eating them raw will give you an acidic taste explosion that will hint of the greatness to come - the sourness will likely discourage you from eating many raw.

Cooked into Oregon Grape Juice or Jam it will truly shine! You can find the juice recipe at the bottom of this page

Cooked up into syrup, jellies or jam the flavorful berry will beat most other berries. It will absolutely outcompete any jam you can find in the grocery aisles.

The trick to a good O.grape jam is to clean them good. The hair like stems and the seeds should be removed as good as you can. The less work intense method I’ve found to remove the stems is by freezing them after initial cleaning. Freeze them on a flat baking sheet makes sure they don’t clump together. Once frozen, pour them into a big pot. Lid on. Shake vigorously for 2 minutes and then it’s done. Most stems will have fallen to the bottom of the pot.

Take care to reduce the pesky seeds once the berries are mashed. The seeds are slightly larger than raspberry seeds. For a good jam the seeds are too large and too many to ignore since each berry has a couple of them.


Reduce the amount of seeds

The easiest way to remove them is to use a tea sieve. Just scoop them up when they float to the top during the jam cooking. You will loose some berry pulp but it’s wort it to reduce the amount of seeds.

Jam ingredients

  • 3 qt cleaned and washed Oregon grapes

  • 1.5 qt sugar is my preference. It’ll keep the jam slightly tart. My US coworkers and my kids prefer 1.75qt sugar for a slightly sweeter version.

  • 1 bag sure-jell pectin*

  • 3 tbsp rum, brandy or other flavorful liquor*

  • 1.5 tsp citric acid or 3/4 cups (12 tbsp) of lemon juice.

  • 1 1/4 water (3dl)

  • Sterilized (boiling water dipped) canning jars.

* you might be able to skip the extra pectin. Oregon grapes are loaded with it so if you want to skip it then don’t add the rum nor the pectin and try it out. Once it is cooled down you can check if it was thick and jellied enough? If not, you can always cook them up again with the extra pectin.


Jam making

  1. Add berries, sugar and water into a large pot on medium heat.

  2. Stir the berry mix until the sugar is melted.

  3. Keep the berry mixture boiling for 20-30 minutes. Make sure to stir now and then.

  4. Decrease the heat and using a potato masher to gently mash the berries into jam. This takes about 5-7 minutes for me. Take care to not splash the hot jam sauce - it’s hot and painful.

  5. Increase the heat to medium and once it starts to boil gently give it another good stir. Wait for the seeds to come to the surface. Scoop the seeds up with a tea sieve and remove.

  6. Cook for another 10 minutes.

  7. * Add the liquor and the pectin (according to the pectin package instructions)

  8. Pour into the sterilized jars. Leave only a little space. Make sure to wipe off any jam that got into the can’s lid grooves.

  9. Can the jars. I use water canning and let them boil for approximately 10 - 15. minutes. If you are new to canning then look up the instructions online. USDA has free canning instructions.


English toast with Oregon Grape jam

Enjoy the jam on toast, on PB sandwich, with cheese, pancakes or anyway you like.

Oregon Grape Juice

The juice is perfect for kids and adult alike. The flavor rich beverage will be perfect as a non-alcoholic alternative to red wine.


How to

2.5 quarts of frozen berries (if fresh, triple cook time)

3.5 cups of water

Put berries and water into a pot and boil for at least 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and use a potato masher to turn the berries into pulp.

Pour the mixture over a sieve with a bowl underneath for catching the juice.

Let sit for 30 minutes to let the juice drain into the bowl.

Try to press out the juice from the pulp through the sieve

Measure how much juice concentrate you got. Add back to pot. For every quart of juice add 2.5 cups of sugar.

Let it boil up then simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the concentrated juice into containers and store in fridge.

Mix and serve

Mix 1/3 juice. 2/3 water - strong

Mix 1/4 juice, 3/4 water - my preference

Add an ice cube or two and serve.