I'm always looking for fruits and veggies that are the brief stars of their seasons. The kind you have to snap up immediately because they won't be there when you come back after further consideration. Concord grapes are one of those fruits. So of course I grabbed an armful, with no thought of what exactly I would make. So I started tearing through the internet, in addition to every book I could get my hands on. And I not only found a delicious recipe, I found myself a fabulous new jam cookbook. Double score!
Note: The original recipe makes a jam, but that didn't exactly work out for me. See, I bought what were supposedly seedless Concord grapes. So I just chucked them in the pot and went about my business. Until the little seeds started floating on the surface. Yes, seeds. From supposedly seedless grapes. So everything got strained and 2 tablespoons powdered pectin was added to make up for the pectin in the missing grape skins. Still delicious.
Concord Grape Jam
Adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders
4 pounds Concord grapes, stemmed
2½ pounds white cane sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice, strained
Very finely grated zest of ½ an orange, orange part only, not the underlying bitter white pith
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam later.
Working directly over a small nonreactive saucepan, use your fingers to gently squeeze the flesh from each grape, being careful to catch all the grape innards and juices in the pan. (Editor’s Note: Yes, you really have to stand there and squeeze each grape.) Set the skins aside in a large bowl.
Bring the grape innards and juices to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Immediately force as much of the pulp as possible through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois placed over the bowl of grape skins. Discard the seeds.
Add the sieved grape pulp, sugar, lemon juice, orange zest, and Grand Marnier to the grape skins, stirring well. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Continue to cook the jam, stirring very frequently with a heatproof rubber spatula. If the jam starts sticking, lower the heat slightly. When the jam is done, it will acquire a glossier sheen and will have a thicker, more luxurious look than it did initially, usually after 20 to 30 minutes. To avoid overcooking the jam, test it for doneness after 20 minutes of cooking. To test, remove the jam from the heat and carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. Replace the cold spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it is reluctant to run, and if it has thickened to a spreadable consistency, it is done. If it runs quickly, cook it for another minute or two, stirring, and test again as needed.
When the jam is ready, skim any white foam from its surface with a stainless-steel spoon. Pour the jam into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes 4 half-pint jars