Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Adventures in Preservation: Grape Jelly/Jam

It's Saturday night and I'm updating a blogger that is read by two people. Let's just admit that I'd like to be one of those people who make a living by writing about their daily lives doing things like make jam. Sadly, I'm not one of those people. Perhaps less sadly, I know I'm not one of those people and yet here I am, putting together a post, with a number of photos, about making jam. Or maybe it's jelly. That I can't decide whether what we've made is jelly or jam is likely one of the many reasons I'm not one of those people making a living by my blog posts. Tonight I'm more than willing to accept that because what I have are seven jars of grape jelly/jam that was made with grapes grown in our very own backyard. This pleases me to an absurd extent--an extent that is particularly absurd since I'm not really a huge fan of grape jelly. But here's the story.

This year, for the first year, we have an inordinate number of grapes (Concord, I believe) that have come (oh, how I love that moment when words suddenly make epiphanic sense) to fruition. In previous years either Ratticus has eaten much of the harvest while it was still green or the vines just didn't feel particularly ambitious; I don't know. But this, our fifth full summer in the house, the grapes have been so prolific that it has been impossible to ignore them. And so, despite not being such a fan of grape jelly, I insisted that we should make jelly. Or jam. We used this Concord Grape Jam recipe so I guess it's jam though it seems to me that if you cook it twice and strain it midway through it should be jelly. Whatever. Make with the photos.

 See? This is what we saw when we looked up into the grape arbor. Lovely, isn't it? But also impossible to ignore, especially since all these lovely grapes eventually either a) become food for Ratticus, b) fall to the patio below making a mess, or, most likely, c) both. So I picked what turned out to be more than five pounds (scarcely making a dent in the supplies) and brought them in to be washed, de-vined, and skinned. Skinning Concord grapes, I'm happy to report, turns out to be an incredibly quick and easy business. You squeeze the grape and the innards just squirt out.
Here you see the washing and de-vining stage:

And below are the basic ingredients: grape innards, lemon juice, sugar, and grape skins, some of which had, when this photo was taken, been "pureed" in the handy black&decker chopper which fills the role of "food processor" in our kitchen.   

Next up, all the ingredients get combined in a pot and cooked pretty much until it's all deliquesed. This was one of the selling points of this recipe over the other one found by googling "Concord grape jam recipes"; it didn't require cooking the grape skins separately from the guts. It also had a better grape to sugar ratio (and used a lot more grapes: 5 pounds vs. 8 cups). After cooking, we put the whole mess through the newly purchased food mill. If we'd spent this $34.95 plus tax before we made the blackberry jam, we'd have a lot more blackberry jam now. I suddenly adore the inventor of the food mill.

 After putting the contents of Pot A through the food mill and thus into Pot B, you put Pot B onto the stove and cook the contents until they pass the "cold plate test" which happened a lot more quickly than we expected. For the cold plate test you drop a teaspoon of jam mixture onto a plate you've had in the freezer and then let it sit in the freezer for a minute. If the "mound" of jam then slides as a single unit when you tilt the plate then the jam is sufficiently jelled and you can move onto ladling the stuff into properly prepared jars. This is the least ambiguous test I've ever encountered in the cooking world. I heart it, I do. Of course, I didn't take a photo until after we'd done a taste test or two. Also, below right, the jam ready to be ladled into prepared jars:

Below, the seven half-pint jars once they'd been filled, lidded, processed in a hot bath, and labeled. And, hell, stacked into a pyramid.

 But in Mme. Gradka's kitchen, no job is truly finished until the staff has cocktails:


  1. I like grape jam. Or jelly. Hint, hint.
    Lovely photos. Where's the close-up of the label, though?

    There is a faculty member in my department who has a phobia of grapes. She finds the fact that you can squeeze them and stuff pops out an action that produces high anxiety within her soul. Most bewildering. So glad you do not suffer from this debilitating disorder!

  2. Does your faculty member have other related phobias? How does she feel about champagne? There could well be a jar of grape jam/jelly in your future but you may be disappointed in the label.

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  4. Oh my, I will never eat a grape again. Ever notice how they always dress up as eyeballs for Halloween? Thanks for the jelly, Mary. Delicious.