Fall is absolutely my favorite season. There is just something so idyllic about the leaves beginning to turn various shades of red, yellow, and orange, while the cold begins to settle in at night. Fall also means that apples, pumpkins, and grapes have arrived in abundance!
As I’ve mentioned before, I am woefully behind in my normal canning routine. I’ve usually put up at least three batches of jam or jelly by now, and sadly I have only finished one batch (Dandelion Jelly) so far. A batch that, by the way, didn’t last long in this house. My kids scarfed that honey-flavored goodness down! So when I saw fresh concord grapes at the public market this Saturday, I knew that I had to purchase them ($8!) and try a new recipe! However, I wanted to wander away from the grape jelly camp and try to make grape jam.
Usually the skins and pulp are discarded in the jelly making process, but I didn’t like the thought of wasting good food, and skin + pulp= texture in jam. I love the chunky texture that whole fruit gives jam! So I looked into grape jam and found a few recipes that looked promising. I chose one, enlisted my oldest daughter’s help, and we were rolling!
First, you must remove the skins and reserve them for later. This is very easy, and time consuming, to do. Just pluck the grape off the stem, pinch them, and out they’ll pop. (My oldest did an amazing job helping with this step!) I reserved the skins in my food processor bowl so I dirtied fewer dishes throughout the cooking/canning process (minimalist cooking, right?!). Once the skins are separated run them through your food processor (or immersion blender, blender, food mill, etc.) until they reach the consistency you desire. The skins add great texture, and an amazing deep, deep purple color to your jam!
To make concord grape jam you must cook the internal pulp first, and then run it through a sieve to extract all of the seeds. Once that step is done you can add the reserved (and pulsed in the food processor) skins to your cooked grape pulp. This recipe called for 6 Cups of prepared fruit.
You are almost ready to cook your jam! I however, have learned (the hard way!) that it is necessary to put the cooking on hold to be certain that you have everything prepared and ready for the cooking and canning process, as it always goes faster than you expect.
First I add super hot tap water to my water bath canner and place it on high heat. Then I pull out my pectin and set the packet on the counter (Fun fact: grapes have enough naturally occurring pectin to gel on their own, but I like to help them along.). I also pull out the sugar and measure the required amount into a mixing bowl (I use a small plate underneath my measuring cup to catch my spills. I’m a messy measurer.). After that I place my clean canning jars onto a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 275* to sterilize them, and finally, I toss my lids and bands into a pot of water to boil. Only when all of this is completed do I actually turn on the heat underneath my fruit. Far too many times I have brought my fruit to a boil only to realize that I cannot measure out an obscene amount of sugar (this recipe called for 7.5 Cups) AND stir the fruit at the same time to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pot. Trust me, taking an five extra minutes to organize yourself here will make the rest of the canning process go so much smoother!
Once your fruit and pectin mixture reaches a boil you can add in your sugar and cook it some more. It’s really neat to watch the color and viscosity of your fruit change before your eyes. Once the fruit has cooked for the appropriate length of time, turn off the heat, and get ready to fill your jars.
I use my jar lifter to pull the jars out of the oven (they’re hot!) and line them up on my towel lined counter. I fill my jars without a funnel (crazy, I know), so I ladle the mixture into my big pyrex measuring cup and pour it from there. It works really well! I also stick a metal butter knife into each jar just before I pour the molten jam into them to give the heat something to dissipate into, reducing the likelihood that my jar will explode! I have had jars explode before, and it’s messy. This is one of the many reasons I towel line my counters when I’m canning!
Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims and threads with a clean, damp towel, set the lid on top, and screw on the band. Then place the jars into your water bath canner, process for 10 minutes, and voila! Fresh Concord Grape Jam! And let me tell you, it’s delicious. We licked the pot and utensils clean!
I used Kraft/Sure-Jell’s recipe found here: Concord Grape Jam
Give it a try and let me know what you think!