Did you know there are 8,000+ varieties of grapes worldwide? Grapes are one of the oldest cultivated crops and it’s believed that Columbus brought grapes to North America from Europe. Although grown mostly for wine making, in the mid 1800’s the first commercial table grape vineyard was started in California.
It’s thought that, with California’s 550 grape farmers, 98% of fresh grapes in the US, are grown here! What? That is pretty crazy. Especially with the drought we are experiencing. Many varieties come into season July through December. (Of course, now a-days you can buy them in the grocery store year round, but eating seasonally ensures the most delicious produce by far.)
I was recently gifted a gorgeous selection of grapes from Melissa’s Produce, who distributes grapes for Grapery, whose owner and CEO are fourth and fifth generation farmers respectively, in California’s Central Valley. My family, of course, devoured many of them but I also roasted a bunch of grapes for a salad and the rest I made into this grape jam.
I decided to add all four varieties into the jam to see where the flavors would go and it turned out delicious. Of course, you can use what you have though. Concord is the most popular but this is what I had: (Muscato’s are very similar to Concords.)
I know someone is bound to ask, and the answer is: No, I did not peel them! And it still turned out fantastic. (I even told someone I was going to make it without peeling them and he said, “You can’t do that!”, which of course made me want to do it even more.) I think the tartness of the skin helps cut the sweetness, so the trick is to just blend it up really well.
But first I added the sugar and lemon juice…
Then I used an immersion blender to blend it all up. If you don’t have one of these, you could do this in your food processor first then put it in your pot.
This is the consistency I wanted but if you want some bigger chunks, just blend a little less. I think I’ll try that next time for a more rustic, artisan product.
While the jam was cooking, I put a plate in the freezer for my end stage test and started sterilizing my jars. Make sure to stir frequently, and as the jam boils you’ll want to skim off any foam you can.
From what I understand, having some under ripe grapes will help with the natural pectin, but this batch rendered down nicely, although it took a little while – about an hour.
I’m still new to preserve making so I used a thermometer (220F/105c is the setting point for jam) and did the freezer test as well to make sure it was ready… and that I didn’t screw it up! (Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more on this.) Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe off the rims, add lids, and bring to a boil for 10 minutes (these are 8oz jars).
Let cool on a towel and just check your lids to make sure they have sealed properly. (If you ever have a jar that doesn’t seal, that’s okay, just put it in your fridge and eat that one first.) Label and date it and you are set! This recipe made 5 8oz jars. (Yes, both those sizes are 8oz… don’t you love that I can answer your questions before you even ask???)
And guess what I had for breakfast the next morning? Yum!