Concord Grapes

grapes & scaleMy neighbor does not yet have time to use the grapes growing on the vines in her yard. She has little boys to chase and enjoy, and at nap time, she is still napping to recover from all the chasing and enjoyment. We aren’t sure how old the vines are. I know that they have been there for at least three owners of the house, and the owner before the present one was there for 17 years. What I do know is that they put out a lot of grapes!

In about a half an hour, I picked 14 lbs. of Concord grapes. Some of this will turn into jelly, the rest into grape juice concentrate. I like to use liquid pectin for jelly because I don’t have to worry about it clumping or clouding the final product.

 

Grape Jelly

  • 3 lbs. of grapes, washed and stemmed
  • ½ C water
  • 7 C sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
  1. Place grapes in a large pot with the water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.
  2. Crush the grapes with a potato masher, or long handled meat tenderizer (I use the plunger from my grinder), and simmer another 5 – 10 minutes.
  3. Strain juice through a jelly bag (See Note below). Do not squeeze the bag!
  4. In a clean pot, measure 4 cups of the prepared juice.
  5. Stir in the sugar. Do not reduce the sugar if you are using standard pectin. If you want to reduce the sugar, use pectin made especially for low-sugar recipes!
  6. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil – a boil that cannot be stirred down.
  7. Quickly stir in the pectin, and return to a full rolling boil.
  8. Boil for exactly 1 minute.
  9. Turn off hear and let stand for 1 minute. Skim any foam from the top.
  10. Ladle into prepared jars and process.

Note: I used an old sheet and made jelly bags that fit inside my chinois. When I am done, I can throw the jelly bag in the washer and it gets completely clean – no pulp hanging on anywhere.

You can do a “second pressing” to make another batch of jelly: Return the pulp to the pot, and add ½ C of water. Bring up to a simmer and return it to the jelly bag. This time you can squeeze the bag to get all of the juice out of it. The result will taste great, but will be a little cloudy.

Grape Juice Concentrate

  • 10 lbs. Concord grapes, washed and stemmed
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 3 ½ C sugar
  1. Combine water and grapes in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes.
  2. Pour contents into a juice bag (I use one of my homemade jelly bags), and squeeze it until you get all of the juice out of it.
  3. Return the juice to the pot and add the sugar. Bring this to a full boil and boil for 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Ladle into prepared jars and process.

To serve, dilute 1:1. My daughter likes to make grape soda by diluting the concentrate with seltzer.

Jamming

Jam and jelly was always a preservation area that alluded me.  Admittedly, I didn’t put much effort into it, because my mother-in-law is a jammer, extraordinaire.  She showed up every year at Christmas time with a trunk full of strawberry jam, and raspberry jam, and peach preserves.  But my own history of jams that didn’t set up is really what made me stop trying.

A couple of years ago, my husband encouraged me to make Sweet Tomato Jam.  He found the recipe in one of his cookbooks and it sounded good to him.  Honestly, it sounded disgusting to me, but I made it anyway because it was one of those years we had tomatoes coming out of our ears — I had quite a few volunteer cherry tomato plants come up and they were very prolific, so I adapted the recipe to use up the excess.

Well, it didn’t set up.  I was dejected, and all “I told you I can’t make jam.”  But rather than waste these jars of jam, I called my mother-in-law and she encouraged me to re-cook the jam with some pectin and talked me through the process.  It worked!  And the resulting jam was really tasty!  On a whim, I added it to my entries for the Middletown Grange Fair and it was judged a Best in Show (in a four way, with three other jams)!  Lesson learned: if it doesn’t set up on the first try, cook it again.  Oh, and trust my husband’s ability to judge a recipe.

This year I have made all sorts of jams and jellies, from combination berry to an unusual cilantro-garlic jelly.  I think it is a condiment that will pair nicely with grilled fish, chicken or pork.

Cilantro-Garlic Jelly

  • 1 C cilantro, chopped, including stems
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 t black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced
  • 3 C boiling water
  • the juice of two limes, strained
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 T powdered pectin
  1. Combine cilantro, garlic, peppercorns and hot pepper in a heat-proof bowl and cover with 3 1/2 C of boiling water.  Cover the bowl and let steep over night.
  2. The next morning, strain through butter muslin (or a piece of an old sheet) in a fine sieve. Do not press.
  3. Mix the pectin with 1/2 C sugar and set aside.
  4. Measure 3 cups into a medium pot, along with the lime juice.  Add the sugar pectin mixture.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the remaining 1 1/2 C of the sugar and bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from the heat and let rest for 4 minutes.  Skim foam.  Pour into sterile canning jars and process.

A special thanks to Angela Mazur who caught a MAJOR error in this post, that has now been revised!