I spent the weekend jamming. Grape jamming that is. …and jamming to Ben Folds while doing it.
One of the (only) things we liked about our house when we bought was the backyard. The previous owner had obviously spent a lot of time and money on the plants in the yard. There was an apple tree, cherry tree, plum tree, pear tree, grapes vines and numerous other plants and trees. For various reasons, though, the grape vine is the only one that yields much of anything but each year it provides plenty of fruit to be jammed or juiced.
Last year I did both juice and jam. The jam got eaten up right away while most of the juice is currently still sitting on the shelf in the fruit room. So this year I decided to do mostly jam out the grapes. The problem with that, though, is that grape jam is significantly more complicated and hands-on than juicing the grapes.
Grape juice is easy. You pick the grapes, wash them thoroughly, and then fill the steam juicer with grapes (stems, seeds and all) until the juice tank of the juicer is full enough to start pouring into the jars. Other than filling the jars and making sure there is enough water in the bottom section to make steam there is very little hands-on required.
On the other hand- grape jam gets complicated. After the picking and the washing then you have to separate the skins from the innards (flesh?) of the grapes. Then you cook the innards until they begin to break down a little. Then run them through the food mill to remove the seeds and any bits of stem that may have slipped through. Then the skins are added back to the flesh, sugar is added, and you stir until it’s combined and thick. So I guess not complicated, but very little downtime. Your hands are needed every step of the way.
I read that one way to tell if your jam is ready is when it reaches 220°. So with my first batch I used a candy thermometer. After stirring constantly for nearly an hour my arm and hands were covered in purple dots where the molten lava jam splattered out. Each splatter felt like a pin prick until it cooled down. My jam never reached 220 but it did start smelling burned and into a globby mess with the texture of curdled concrete.
So I gave up on that batch and started a new one.
I got nervous with the next batch so that one ended up slightly under-done. Which is alright, it just means the jam is a little more soupy and a little less jammy. But it still tastes fine. The third batch ended up just right. So I guess my weekend was the story of the three bears told in grape jam format. Or something like that. Nonetheless, I have a bunch of grape jam that will last about 3 weeks because one of the only things my oldest son will consistently eat is “a peanut butter sandwich, open face, with grape jam on it”.
Concord Grape Jam
Cook time: 30 min to 1 hour
Prep time: 1 hour
Yields: 2-3 cups
3 lbs ripe Concord Grapes
3 cups Sugar
- Wash the grapes well in cold water.
- Remove stems and leaves. Squeeze each grape out of its skin into a bowl and put the skins in a second bowl. Set the skins aside
- Set aside the Grape skins. You will be using them later.
- Put grape pulp in a pot and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Cook until grapes begin to break down, about 5 minutes.
- Set up food mill over bowl.
- Pour hot grapes into mill. Pass the grapes through the mill until all the pulp is in the bowl below and all the seeds are in the mill. Scrape the bottom of the mill into the bowl below.
- Discard the seeds.
- Put the pulp back in the pot. Add the grape skins and bring it to a boil.
- After cooking together for about 5 minutes start gradually add the sugar, stirring in 1 cup at a time to the pulp. This will begin to release the juices and you’ll notice your jam is much thinner than it started out.
- Bring back to a rolling boil and cook stirring constantly. This can take 30 minutes to an hour. Jam is done when it reaches 220° or when it passes the freezer plate test.
Adapted from http://chefinyou.com/2011/10/11/concord-grapes-jam/
Step by step instructions:
Pick a million grapes (approximately 3 lbs per batch)
Soak in cold water then rinse thoroughly.
Slip each grape out of its skin. Wear gloves if you don’t want your hands to be stained purple for days.
Once all the skins are off the grapes put your hands in and squish it around for a little bit. (This step isn’t essentially, but it’s totally awesome because they feel like eyeballs.) Put the peeled grapes in a pot.
Cover and bring to a boil and cook until grapes start to break down.
Set up a food mill over a bowl.
Pour the hot grapes into the food mill.
Separate the seeds from the fleshy part of the grape. Anne Burrell (one of my favorites) says to do one backwards turn for every 5 forward turns to clean off the bottom of the food mill.
Keep going until all the seeds are separated from the good stuff.
Once that step is complete be sure to scrape the bottom of the food mill. The thicker parts of the pulp will stick to the bottom but that’s exactly what we want in the jam!
Now let’s turn our attention back to the skins that have been patiently waiting.
Pour the pulp back into the pot and add the skins. Add the sugar one cup at a time, stirring continuously.
Watch out for splatters. It hurts like a sonofa… and stains everything. In fact I highly recommend wearing an apron. The older and less attractive the apron is the better.
Cook together until thick enough to be jam like. You can either measure it by using a candy thermometer and waiting until it comes to 220°, or pour a little bit of jam on a frozen plate to quickly chill the jam and test the consistency.
Pour your delicious molten lava-esque jam into jars and either keep them in the refrigerator or you can follow these canning instructions like I did.