Why It Works
- A food mill saves the trouble of peeling and seeding grapes.
- Citrus juice adds a tart contrast to sweet grapes.
Grapes appear at the farmers' markets for but a few weeks here in Philadelphia. Every year I mean to put some up, and every year I end up eating them instead, inelegantly spitting seeds into a teacup. It's not for lack of wanting grape-something in the pantry, I like a PB&J as much as the next kid, it's just that the grapes always seem to arrive squarely during the few weeks when I've taken on the craziest canning hurdle of the year: tomatoes.
Whether whole, crushed, sauce, or salsa, the tomatoes demand my attention so thoroughly that I find myself in the wee hours of the night, crammed in around work and other responsibilities, my free time divided into seven jar intervals. I relax only when that last locally-grown San Marzano is firmly sealed up, knowing that January will mean rosy tomato soup, chili, and rigatoni.
The other factor preventing me from having put up grapes in the past has been the fuss. Mimicking that clear, jewel-toned perfection of Welch's requires a jelly set-up and a long draining time, and chunkier jam recipes usually call for peeling Concord grapes and then cooking them in two stages. A few weeks ago I compared a season of preserving to a marathon. If the metaphor holds, then I'm flagging in the home stretch and I simply cannot be bothered to peel grapes, or wash a second saucepan.
When sweet, seedy, intensely flavored ones showed up at the market this year; however, I took a deep breath and bought two heaping quarts, determined to get them into jars. I let go of the expectation that the result would have that perfect translucence of a proper jelly.
Instead, I cooked them with their skins, and let the food mill do the work of removing them, along with the seeds. The result is somewhere between a jam and a jelly. It's opaque and pulpy, bursting with grape flavor, but with a wobbly set that melts instantly on warm toast. Since the grapes I used were syrupy sweet and sticky, I added a healthy half-cup of citrus juice to the mix to amp up the contrast. If you're using Concord, or another variety that has more of a tang, cut the citrus down to a quarter cup. Either way, this little jam makes a quintessential sandwich, and it's also awesome on a bagel with cream cheese. I don't dare try it as filling in a homemade doughnut, because it might be too good, and then I would find myself next year torn between grapes and tomatoes.
3 pounds of flavorful grapes, Concord or otherwise (about 2 quarts)
1 cup water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons low sugar pectin
1/4 to 1/2 cup lime or lemon juice (see notes)
Prepare boiling water canner and sterilize 5 half-pint jars by boiling them for 10 minutes. Wash lids and rings and bring to a simmer in a separate, small saucepan of water. Turn off heat and allow jars, lids, and rings to sit in hot water until you need them.
Wash and stem grapes, removing any split or compromised ones. Don't worry if small stems remain on the fruit, since they will be strained out along with the seeds. In a nonreactive, heavy-bottomed saucepan bring grapes and water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Simmer grapes, periodically stirring and crushing, until they've begun to lose their shape and you can see seeds floating in the mix, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Set a food mill (with the smallest sieve in place) over a large, heatproof bowl or pitcher, and pour grapes and cooking liquid through. Mill until all that remains are the seeds, skins, and stems. You will have about 4 cups (32 ounces) of grape pulp.
In the same, nonreactive saucepan, stir grape pulp together with sugar, pectin, and citrus juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until mixture registers 220°F (104°C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer.
Turn off heat and skim any foam with a spoon. Ladle jam into prepared jars, leaving a quarter inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jar lids with a clean kitchen or paper towel and seal.
Place sealed jars back into the canning kettle. When all jars are added, make sure that the water level clears the jar lids by at least 1 inch. Add more water if necessary, and, over high heat, bring the water back up to a boil. Once the water boils, set a timer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, turn off heat, and allow jars to sit in water for 5 additional minutes. Then, using a jar lifter, remove the jars to a cooling rack.
Once jars have reached room temperature, remove rings and test that all lids have sealed properly. If any have not sealed, store them in the refrigerator. Label and store sealed jars in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
If your grapes are very sweet, use a full 1/2 cup of citrus juice. More tart grapes, like Concords, only require 1/4 cup.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 32 to 40|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 12g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||5%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||12%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|