Thursday, September 3, 2015

Grape Jamly: Now with more details and plenty o' photos!

Such a week it has been that though it is only Thursday night and we made the grape jamly on Sunday afternoon, it already seems like an age ago and whatever fascinating account I intended to give of the experience is quite faded. But I have photos and I'm hoping those will both aid my memory and add interest to this potentially dry report.

Mostly what I remember are the Miracles of Aurora and, on reflection, our inability to recognize them in advance. We were low on jars so we bought another eight at True Value. On looking at the recipe, I saw that five pounds of grapes should fill seven jars. Given that we had a large-ish supply of grapes and some additional jars, we opted to increase the recipe by half and prepare all but one of our jam-size jars. This was our first failure because of course in Aurora's house the number of jars you have is the number of jars you'll need and we ended up having to sterilize that final jar on its own. With it, we ended up with exactly the amount of jam to fill fourteen jars, and I mean ex-act-ly. Where does that happen but in Aurora's house?

I picked a basket of grapes (see above) before we got started without a great deal of concern as to how many we needed for the jamly. After using seven and a half pounds for the jamly I found we had pretty much exactly four pounds remaining--or just enough to whip up two batches of grape pie filing for the freezer. "Oh, Aurora," we cried in gratitude, "truly thou art not only miraculous but also practical!"

 So then. For those wishing to make grape jamly at home, here is how it is done. First off, find a proper recipe--ideally, you won't leave it sitting where the water draining from your colanders soaks it but, if you do, move it to a safely distant surface to dry flat.

This recipe is nice in that it's really simple numerically and involves only three ingredients: 5 pounds of grapes to 5 cups of sugar to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. We increased it to 7.5 to 7.5 to (and this is where it got tricky and we had to double-check the math) 4.5 tablespoons of lemon juice.

The first step is the somewhat tedious business of slipping the grapes from their skins. Scott and I stood on opposite sides of the counter, each with our own 3.75 pounds of grapes, pot, and bowl and made a race of it. I won.

You then take your grape skins and a cup of sugar and puree them together. Some people likely have full-size Cuisinarts and would be able to process all seven pounds worth of skins (and two cups of sugar) at once; with our plucky little handy chopper, it took a few rounds.

Next, you dump everything into a couple of good-size pots and start it a-simmerin' and a-boilin'. I have no idea why I think this stage requires one to drop one's gs but, clearly, I do. It's a good idea to have your big canning pot of water getting ready to think about heating up at this stage. You should also have a couple of small plates chilling in the freezer.

Once the grape stuff has come to a boil and cooked down a little (about 20 minutes, according to the recipe), it's time to flirt with third degree burns. You dump the steaming mass of fruit, sugar, and lemon juice (the sugar has long since dissolved) into your food mill (see previous post) and mill away until you've got a bowl full of syrupy goodness, free of seeds. Around here we like to pause at this stage to wonder why it took us so long to invest in a food mill. It is really one of the marvels of civilization, that little hand-cranked wonder.

Miraculously free of burns, you dump the seed-free mixture back into a pot (from which you've removed any seeds that may have clung to the sides) and return the pot to the stove top to do some more cooking.
Note mixture is still steaming in this photo; handle with care!
This time around you're cooking it down until a spoonful dropped onto one of those chilled plates and returned to the freezer for a minute moves, when tilted, as a more or less solid mass, rather than dribbling. After a few years in this jam-making business, we rely exclusively on the chilled plate test. This second round of cooking is about half an hour.

Once the jam is jamly, you'd best hope that your jars are done boiling because it's time to to fill them and top them with washed but not boiled lids, that being the way the Ball people would have you do it these days. It seems to be flirting with certain death, but who are we to argue with the officials? Once all the jars are filled and lidded you put them back into the big canning pot, make sure all the jars are have at least two inches of water covering them, and then boil them for ten minutes. Carefully remove them and set them to dry off on the counter and listen to their merry pinging! as you wipe up grape from every conceivable surface in the kitchen.

The recipe advises that the flavors improve after a few days in the jar but we haven't opened any to test this year's vintage out yet, in part because they don't really seem finished until they have labels. Which, soon, they will.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe we haven't eaten any of this jamly yet. But as you say, tradition delays us until the labels are attached. Wouldn't want to upset management.