I usually don’t have time to can anything. I also usually don’t have enough of any one crop to do anything in large enough batches to warrant canning. As you may remember, gardening is not really my strongest skill. However, I am great at letting the wild vines and bushes left by previous owners run wild. That includes the grapes that grow at the edge of my driveway. In past years, I’ve noticed a few grapes that the birds ate before I had a chance to harvest; but this year we had a bumper crop. The vines are covering trees and the ground all around with large grape leaves in a very kudzu like fashion and the clusters are hanging as high up as I can see. This year I made the birds wait their turn and took my share to make jam.
I’ve never made grape jam before, lucky for me my father descends from a long line of food preservers. He is always foraging his plot for wild grapes, blackberries, black raspberries, red raspberries and even black walnuts from which he has made pies, jam, and even wine. His mother, an excellent gardener, canned everything she could get her hands on. She canned jam, pickles, and vegetables by the bushel. Thus it was pure serendipity-do-da that the grapes happened to ripen at the same time that my father came for a visit. There were so many grapes that ten minutes of picking produced a huge pile of grapes to pick over. Not all of the fruit was ripe, but there were so many of them, that we could be picky about which fruit we used for our jam. The results are spectacular. It’s fruit-forward flavor is not too sweet nor too firm in consistency. Perfect for toast and pretty much anything you can find to smear it on. Enjoy!
Sour Grape Jam – Click here for a printable version of this recipe
This is not an exact recipe. Everyone will have a different amount of fruit with different qualities, so it is written so that you can follow it with whatever fruit you have. This produces a semi-firm jam; not too jelled so that the flavors still shine through, it also doesn’t have too much sugar so that the natural flavors of the grapes still remain. When deciding to stop boiling your jam err on the side of under doing it. The longer you cook the liquid, the less like fresh fruit it will taste and the more it will taste like flavored sugar. After all if your finished product is too soft, then people will know it’s homemade.
grapes (concord or other sweet grape)
Pick over your fruit to remove unripe and spoiled bits, bugs and leaves. Washing is not necessary if the fruits have gone directly from vine to clean container unless they have been sprayed with pesticide.
Place clean fruit in a large heavy bottomed pot. Add a small amount of water (about a cup for every four pounds of fruit). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Use a potato masher to mash grapes separating them from their skins.
Let simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat and let the fruit sit with the skins for 15 minutes.
Pour the fruit into a food mill and press through the mill leaving the skins and seeds behind.
Measure the amount of juice and pulp you have. Return the juice and pulp to the pot and add one cup of sugar for every two cups of juice and pulp. You may need one tablespoon of pectin for every two cups of juice and pulp. Try none or little at first and add only if you need it. Mix the pectin slowly with water until you have a smooth mixture about the thickness of cream. Whisk the pectin into the juice and sugar and return to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil the mixture for 15 minutes. To test the jam, pour a small spoonful of the jam into a small bowl and allow to cool. If it jells to just under the consistency you want, then your jam is done (it will jell slightly more as it continues to cool). If it is not jelled enough, continue to cook, testing every ten minutes until you reach the desired consistency.
Pour the boiling jam into clean, sanitized canning jars and seal following the directions that come with your canning materials.