When I was growing up, my house backed up to a dried up creek that lead to a park. I loved it because it saved about 15 minutes cutting through to my friend’s house rather than having to walk all the way around. I lived in the suburbs and we always made our own fun. Most summer days I was out of the house from after breakfast until dinner time, playing with anyone who was around. We played tag, house, made bows and arrows out of willow branches, rode our bikes, attempted to build tree houses, pretty much anything we could find.
Along the dried up creek were grape vines. Not a lot, but just enough. The grapes were deep purple and so tempting. My parents told me to stay away from them because they were poisonous, but always was one to defy authority, just a little. The grapes were sweet at first with loose skins. Once you broke into the pulp, they became sour with crunchy seeds. If I ate too much I would get a strange itch in my mouth (also happens to me with pineapple), but it was thrilling to eat the forbidden fruit. I called them wild grapes. I was probably about 10 years old and didn’t know much about grapes, other than they weren’t the seedless ones we always got at the supermarket.
As I grew up, the fascination with the forbidden fruit dwindled and eventually we moved away. I didn’t get that strange itchy feeling again from grapes until I bought a bunch a few years ago at one of the Greenmarkets and learned that they were concord grapes. Concord grapes growing wild in my backyard, who knew? I could have been canning my own grape jam the whole time! Although, then I probably wouldn’t have accumulated so many of those awesome Welch’s jelly jar glasses…
I happened to be picking up my CSA share at the right time and benefited from another shareholder who didn’t want his grapes. I’m not one to pass up free food! But grapes are difficult to work with. I’ve made jelly before that’s been more like a liquid mess. The jam recipes I’ve seen use whole skins in the jam, not the texture I was looking for. So, I did my own thing by mixing it up a bit with jelly jam! Boil the grapes to separate the juice, then run the pulp through a food mill to still create a jammy texture.
Grape Jelly Jam (makes 7-8 4oz jars)
- 4 lbs concord grapes, stems removed
- 1 c water
- 1/4 c bottled lemon juice
- 2 c sugar, divided
- 4 tsp pectin
- 4 tsp calcium water
In a large saucepan heat grapes and water over medium heat. Bring to a low boil. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 10 minutes until fruit is very soft. Crush fruit with a potato masher to help break down. Line a colander with several layers of damn cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Pour grapes into colander and let juices strain in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, set a food mill fitted with a fine blade over a medium saucepan. Add strained grape pulp to food mill try to remove as many seeds as possible. Scrap bottom of food mill to reserve all pulp. Gently pour grape juice over pulp. There will be some crystallization on the bottom of the juice bowl; make sure not to disturb this so it does not end up in the jam.
Add 1 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice to the saucepan and whisk ingredients together over medium heat until smooth. Bring to a boil. In a separate bowl, mix pectin and other 1/2 cup sugar. Add pectin mix to saucepan while whisking consistently so pectin doesn’t clump. Add calcium water and continue cooking over medium heat until reaches jelly like stage. Ladle jelly into clean hot 4oz jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Center rims and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
- Preserving Berry Season (brooklynlocavore.wordpress.com)
- Pear Jam with Honey – European method (paleochik.com)
- Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper (fromthebartolinikitchens.com)