Of all the jams, preserves and marmalade that I attempt in the kitchen, the one that provides me with the most personal sense of accomplishment is the Garden Grape Jam. The reason is very simple, whereas all of the other fruits are source from east Texas, the grapes used in making this jam come entirely from my backyard.
Cultivating grapes in Houston is not difficult, but the fruit produced is not of superior quality. This limits the uses for the grapes that I grow in my yard. The vine has been producing grapes in decent quantities for the past four years. The first year we were disappointed in the tartness of the ripe grapes. The second year we attempted to make vinegar. I am not sure what happened to the “vinegar”. Apparently the attempt failed and the results were discarded. Last year on a hope and a prayer, I attempted to make grape jam. I will admit, I was surprised at the results. This year, the results were just as successful.
Making grape jam is straight forward and although there is an additional step or two, the total time required is about the same as any other fruit jam that requires preparation of the fruit prior to processing (cooking) the fruit.
Instructions to prepare the grapes to make jam:
Remove the bunches of grapes from the vine. The grapes do not need to be completely ripe. In my situation, I pick them a day or two from being ripe because the birds in my backyard know when the grapes are ripe before me.
Remove any grapes that appear rotted damaged or infested. Then thoroughly wash and remove all grapes from the stems. Do not discard grapes that are underdeveloped or small. All of the grapes contribute to the jam.
Dump the grapes into a large pot, add ½ cup of water, cover and then turn on the stove to medium high. Allow the grapes to come to a boil. Boil the grapes, occasionally stirring until all of grapes have burst.
Remove from the stove and allow the mixture to cool.
If you grow a variety of grapes that are seedless, then skip the next two steps. If not, then the next two steps are critical.
Place a wire sieve on top of a bowl and pour the boiled grapes through the sieve to separate the juice from the seeds, skin and pulp. Once you have separated the juice, then with a wooden spoon mash the remaining mixture against the sides of the sieve to separate the pulp and skin from the seeds. The purpose of this step is three fold; 1) Increases the overall volume of the fruit to be processed. 2) Adds additional flavor and texture to the jam. 3) The pulp and skin added to the grape juice adds additional pectin which will help solidify the jam.
You will not separate all of the pulp and skin from the seeds, so I take the remaining mash and in a small pot boil this mixture with a cup of water to extract more flavor and pectin. When the water has been reduced by half, I repeat the prior step.
Pour the strained contents into a large measuring cup and record the total number of cups of grape juice, pulp and strained macerated skin. The total volume collected is important, for you want to use all of the juice collected and will need to calculate the additional fractions of sugar and pectin required. If you are uncomfortable with using fractional amounts of Sugar and Pectin, then I suggest purchasing a bottle of filtered, natural grape juice and add enough juice to your own grape juice until you have an equivalent amount for an additional batch.
To make grape jam I follow the instructions on the box of pectin for Grape (Concord) Cooked Jelly; 5 Cups of Prepared Juice, 7 Cups of Sugar and 1 Box of Pectin. Follow the instructions provided by either Sure-Jell or Ball on their boxes of Pectin and you will have no difficulty or problems making perfectly set Garden Grape Jam. In addition to the instructions included in the boxes of Pectin, the following link to a PDF provided by Ball is a great resource.
Garden Grape Jam is packed with the intense flavor of home grown grapes. The tartness of the grapes combined with the sugar is a nice balance and alternative to the sometimes too sweet flavor of commercially processed jams, jellies and preserves.
Not only is Garden Grape Jam good with peanut butter on a sandwich or spread on toast with butter, but is an excellent pairing with crackers sharp cheddar cheese, blue cheese or goat cheese.