Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Canning Cookbook- Grape Jam

I have very generous friends. The kind of friends that call or text me and ask me if I just want to take a huge bowl of fresh-picked grapes off her hands. Silly question- of course I do! I never turn down a freebie!  In this case it was my super sweet friend Sarah who has an ages-old grapevine at her house. She and I had gone to a grapevine workshop earlier in the spring so she could figure out how to tame The Beast (click HERE to read about it).

Once I had the grapes home, all cleaned and ready to work with (THAT was a horrifying experience with insects but I guess makes them truly organic!) I started to research different recipes. I searched everywhere I could look for something other than grape jelly or jam and had no success. Grape juice sure, but that's not I wanted. So......grape jam it is! I will be using the directions from the Bernardin canning website so it is NOT my recipe and has been tested and certified safe for those who stick to approved-only recipes.

I chose this recipe because it is a smaller batch, and I certainly didn't need any more jam but didn't want to waste the fruit, and also since you need to separate the skin from the flesh- it will take a while but not as long as a bigger batch. I have never worked with grapes at all, so we're learning this one together, guys! I have Concord grapes to play with, but this recipe works equally well with any grape that makes a good jam or jelly including some of the sweeter wine grapes- good to know since Iowa has over 100 wineries/vineyards!

We are going to need-

8 cups stemmed Concord grapes
1/2 cup water
6 cups sugar

Place a metal spoon and plate in the freezer. Trust me, you'll need it later.

Wash and drain the grapes well. Make sure to remove alllll the multi-legged friends that come with things you've grown outdoors. Use your fingers to pinch each grape, forcing the pulp into one saucepan and the skin into another. 

Didn't think that pinch trick would work but it sure did!
Add the water to the grape pulp and bring to a boil. 

Looks like a pot of eyeballs- slimy and gross
Boil gently for 10 minutes stirring once in a while. Press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds and set aside for now.

Looks like a big hassle but it went very quickly.
Next, chop the grape skins, I gave mine a quick buzz in the food processor. I don't want big hunks of skin in the finished jam. Return skins to their saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until the water has evaporated. Thus usually takes about 10 minutes. Combine the skins and pulp.

Before I ran thru the food processor- turned out perfect after
Get your jars ready now- you should always wash them before you start. I like to hold the clean jars in the boiling water bath canner until it's time to fill them.

Place the grape mixture into a deep stainless steel pot. Add all of the sugar. Bring mixture to a boil slowly, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil vigorously until the mixture reaches the gelling point. This takes about 25 minutes, but don't plan your day on that 25 minutes. It took mine quite a bit longer.

How can you tell if it's reached the gel point? Well, remember that spoon we put in the freezer? Remove the pot from heat for a minute and grab that frozen spoon. Dip it into the jam mixture and quickly move away from pot. Mixture should coat the spoon, and if you put a couple drops onto a frozen plate, it will form a soft-set jam just like in the stores. 

Remove jars from hot water. Working quickly, ladle the jam into the hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim of jar and fix lids and rings. Process the jam for 10 minutes in the boiling water bath (start timing when the water is fully boiling). Let the jars rest in the water for 5 minutes off the heat before removing to a towel or rack to cool. You will hear the distinctive POP as they cool and seal. Let them rest 24 hours before removing rings, checking for seal and storing. I got nine half-pints from this recipe.

Aren't jams easy? No straining, no hours waiting on a jelly bag to empty, no worries about cloudiness. Jams are great recipes for starting canners and most fruits are a lot less work than grapes.

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