Jammin'

I’ve been really avoiding sitting down to write this, because, well…I don’t know? I’m not a writer? As much as I want to share all the great stuff I cook and bake at home, sometimes actually writing it up feels like I’m back in high school and I have an essay due. Then other times, it’s effortless. Today is not one of those days, so forgive me for my lack of wit, but I’ll make it up to you by providing you with a recipe for, dare I say it? The most delicious thing that happened to toast since butter. Trust me.

In the first week I made this jam, I ate an embarrassing amount of toast, buttered on both sides (I know, who does that!?), and smeared with this lovely concoction of concord grapes, sugar and orange zest. My husband ate an entire loaf of bread’s worth of PB&J’s in the first day. (Full disclosure: It was a homemade loaf of bread weighing in at roughly a pound, not a huge grocery store loaf.) A couple weeks ago my girlfriend Barry discovered a huge crop of these beautiful jewel-like Concord grapes hanging from the rooftop terrace in one of her friends’ backyard. Lucky for me she has a tiny kitchen, that in no way lends it’s self to jam making, otherwise she surely would’ve kept these for herself. I have since made 9 jars of Concord Jam, and already 3(!) are gone. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.

I do love making jam. Jam and pies. There’s something therapeutic and relaxing about both to me. If I could do nothing else for the rest of my career but make jam and pies, I would be okay with that. I’m not going to lie; this particular jam is time consuming and messy. Concords have seeds that have to be removed. But you shall be rewarded. For the most part, when I make jam I use a basic ratio of 4 parts fruit (by weight) to 3 parts sugar, always adding lemon juice to offset sweetness and help it set correctly. I also have this beautiful and wonderful cookbook called The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, by Rachel Saunders. Have you seen it? It’s gorgeous and has some interesting fruit combinations and fool proof techniques, no pectin or thermometer required. I highly recommend it to jam virgins and those who are intimidated by canning.

Concord Grape Jam

This recipe comes from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, by Rachel Saunders. The only change I made was the addition of salt and some old vanilla bean pods. But I add both to almost everything I make, so no surprise there, right?

Makes 7 or 8 eight ounce jars

  • 4 pounds stemmed Concord grapes
  • 2 1/2 pounds granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 old vanilla bean pods (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt

Before you start, put about 5 metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer, for testing the doneness of the jam later. Wash your grapes by filling a large bowl with cold water, sinking the grapes in, and lifting them out.  This will help remove any leftover bits of stem. Working directly over a bowl, pop the grapes out of their purple flesh, being careful to catch all of the juices in the bowl.  Reserve the skins in another bowl and set aside. In a large non-reactive pot, over medium heat, bring grape innards and juices to a simmer. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until soft. Immediately force as much of the pulp as possible through a fine mesh sieve or chinois. Work in batches to do this, you will end up with more pulp. Throw the seeds away.

Return the sieved pulp to the pot and add the sugar, grape skins, orange zest and juice, and the vanilla bean pods (if using). Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently to avoid sticking or burning. You can lower the heat a little if it starts to stick. Continue to cook about 25 to 30 minutes, adding the salt and lemon juice after 15 minutes of cooking. To avoid overcooking the jam, test the consistency after 20 minutes to see where you are. To do this, remove one of your spoons from the freezer and using a different spoon, place about a half teaspoon’s worth of jam on the frozen spoon and return it to the freezer for about 3 minutes. Remove it from the freezer again, and touch the underside of the spoon; it should be neither warm nor cold. If still warm, return it to the freezer for a minute. Tilt the spoon a little to see how the jam runs.  Once it has thickened to a spreadable consistency, the jam is done. If it’s still a little loose and runs too quickly, cook it for a bit longer, testing as needed until done. Skim any white foam off the top.

While your jam is cooking, prepare your jars.  The easiest way to sterilize your jars is in the oven. First, wash your jars and lids. Place the clean jars and their lids on a baking sheet and put into a preheated 250 degree oven. They should be in there for at least 30 minutes to make sure that they are heated all the way through. Remove them from the oven right before you need to fill them. Hot jam should go into hot jars. Fill each jar using a measuring cup with a pour spout, leaving about 1/4″ of space at the top. Wipe any jam off the rims of the jars and put the lids on, screwing just until they are snug, not tight. Put them back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The jars will seal as they cool, and you should hear a popping sound. Allow them to sit at room temperature overnight, and fell the top of each jar to make sure that it has sealed. Tighten the top. If any jars haven’t sealed, just use them first, storing in the refrigerator.

66 Responses to “Concord Grape Jam”

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