Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An American Icon

I've always liked to make, myself, whatever I can. I've sewn my own jeans for heaven's sake. I've made a men's suit jacket, and winter coats. I pulp pumpkins. I made ginger ale. So homemade jam is no biggie. It's ridiculously easy. The hardest thing about it is remembering to watch the pot so it doesn't burn.

A few weeks ago I made one of my syrups from grapes. I had some red grapes that were going bad, so I just decided to try homemade grape syrup, and it was so delicious. Tasted like grapes. Which gave me the idea to try it with concord grapes.

A real American flavor, concord grapes are a fairly recent cultivar of a native North American species, and the staple of the grade school diet, of course, in the form of grape jelly. It's such a staple of processed food, in fact, that it's easy to dismiss. The absurd purple crayon color, the sweetness, the one-trick pony usage (PBJ!), all serve to make this a homemade item that's easy to over look.

Two days ago I found concord grapes at the local chain market. So I bought 6 pints, which filled a 2 quart pot, and made grape jam.

Homemade concord grape jam

6-8 pints concord grapes, stems removed (don't try to seed them, you can't)
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used white, but I'm betting this would be intense with maple sugar. Use only 1 cup of maple, as it's sweeter than cane)
1/4 cup water

Put the grapes, water and 1/2 cup of sugar in a 2-quart sauce pan, and bring to a light boil. Simmer until the skins break down, then mash it with a potato masher to loosen the seeds. This won't take more than about 10 minutes; maybe less.

To get rid of the seeds, transfer a couple of cups at a time to a food mill with the medium sieve in it (too large a sieve and the seeds will get through, too small and you'll end up milling the seeds). Run it through, scraping the pulp from bottom of the mill into your catch container. Discard or compost the seeds. Once it's all milled, put it back into the sauce pan, and add the rest of the sugar. You should have about 2/3 to 3/4 the volume you started with at this point.

Bring it back to a light boil and reduce it by half, give or take (less reduction will result in a more liquid jam, more reduction for a denser jam). Pour immediately into sterilized jars*, and put in the fridge.

It really is that purple crayon color.

*an easy way to sterilize jars: open them and place them face down on a cookie sheet. Put them in the oven. Set the oven to 300F/150C. When it reaches the full temp, turn it off, then let the jars cool in the oven (takes a couple hours).


  1. It sounds crazy, but while growing up one of our frequent dinners included concord grape jelly. It was a swedish meatball recipe that called for grape jelly and heinz chili sauce. I don't remember what else was included - the jelly and chili sauce stuck out as such an odd combination. Suprisingly it was excellent, albeit quite sweet. I imagine it would be phenomenal with scratch ingredients.

  2. This stuff is so delicious I've been looking for recipes to use with it, but have so far only come up with jelly cookies.