I hate to be a copycat, but I have to ask: Have you ever had a concord grape?
Goodness gracious, these things are insane, not to mention beautiful. These are the grapiest grapes you can imagine. They cook into the most brilliant purple you can think of it. And as you might expect, these are both very, very good attributes, particularly in the case of jam.
I used to have a serious hang-up over grape. Not grapes, but grape, the flavor. I was one of those constantly sick kids, and in the 80s and 90s, sniffling or coughing meant one thing: Dimetapp. That horribly fake grape-flavored concoction guaranteed to put your kids to sleep and dry up their nasal passages. Dimetapp completely ruined my ability to enjoy purple Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffys, popsicles, and suckers. I preferred to have no jelly if grape jelly was the only option. Even purple Skittles had to be paired with reds in an attempt to mask the flavor. Oh, the sacrifice.
So when I saw Yossy’s grape jam recipe come through my reader, I admired the bright purple preserve, ooh’ed over the pretty pastry, impressed that somebody would take time to squish all those grapes. But I wasn’t interested in grape jam, or grape pies. I never expected to see concord grapes at my local farmer’s market, grown just outside of town by a grandmother who informed me very proudly that her husband still hand-picks all these grapes, every year. Out of politeness, I took a smooth grape from her wrinkly hand and popped it in my mouth, not expecting much. “Holy crap!” I gasped once I got over the initial wave of grapiness, the balanced sweet and earthy and tart. She practically giggled and said, “One or two baskets?” “Better go with 3,” I said. “I’m going to have to make some jam this weekend.”
Concord Grape Jam
adapted from Yossy Arefi at Apt. 2B Baking Co.
Makes approximately 1.7 pints, or 3-1/2 half-pint jars
I had about 2.2 lbs. of grapes when I got home, so I split the difference between the 1lb and 4lbs recipe but used the “jam” methodology. I also reduced the sugar a bit to allow the “zing!” of the grapes to shine. Splitting the recipe in half gave me no problems at all, and I ended up with an unbelievably luscious, bright jam. Definitely added to my annual jamming list.
2 lbs. concord grapes
1 lbs white sugar
juice from 1 lemon (about 1.5 oz.)
juice from 1/2 orange (about 0.75 oz.)
Wash and de-stem the grapes, and separate the grape flesh from the skins by squeezing or pinching out the flesh and seeds into a bowl; reserve the skins. In a medium pot over medium-high, heat the grape innards until the seeds start to separate from the flesh. This can take from 3 minutes to 10 minutes depending on the ripeness of your grapes, and it could take some gentle prodding or vigorous stirring, or somewhere in between. Pour over a fine mesh sieve into a large, heavy, non-reactive pot (such as a dutch oven), stirring and pushing to separate as much of the flesh and juice from the seeds as you can. Discard the seeds.
To the newly separated grape flesh and juice, add the sugar, grape skins, and citrus juices. Stir well and bring to a simmer; reduce heat and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches your preferred thickness. This should take 20-30 minutes of light simmering and frequent stirring. I use the frozen plate test, but you can also boil until the jam reaches 220 F or use some other method of your choice.
Pour into jars and can using a hot-water bath for 10 minutes, or keep in the fridge or freezer.