This concord grape jam–nothing but concord grapes, sugar, and citrus juice–makes for nothing but smiles. So simple. So much more satisfying than store-bought.
We can think of no more compelling reason to invest time and effort into making one’s own grape jam than that cherubic little face and those pudgy hands proffering the PB&J in the photo above. That said, we find the intense, not overly cloying, truly grape jammy flavor of these preserves sufficiently convincing on their own. Originally published October 14, 2011.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Concord Grape Jam
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Makes five to six 8-ounce jars
- 4 pounds Concord grapes, stemmed
- 2 1/2 pounds white cane sugar
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice, strained
- Very finely grated zest of 1/2 an orange, orange part only, not the underlying bitter white pith
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh orange juice, strained
- 1. Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam later.
- 2. 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 insides and juices in the pan. [Editor’s Note: Yes, you ready that correctly, you really do have to stand there and squeeze each grape.] Set the skins aside in a large bowl.
- 3. Bring the grape insides 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.
- 4. Add the sieved grape pulp, sugar, lemon juice, orange zest, and orange juice 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.
- 5. 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.
- 6. 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.
Recipe Testers Reviews
Even while this was still boiling, I could not stop licking the spoon. The end result? Ahhhh… delicious. Mind you, I’m more of a marmalade or good honey type of person, so I was really looking forward to seeing the reaction of all other family members. And everyone’s verdict was unanimous, from the 3-year-old toddler who had three slices of bread with the jam to the teens who decided to forego the bread to my husband, who’s expression was “WOW! This tastes like the one we buy at the farmer’s markets but even better.”
It’s not overly sweet and has a nice, light, citrus taste. Be prepared to tire yourself from squeezing grape by grape. Actually find a friend, partner, or kid to help you out as time will fly faster this way. I did notice that while squeezing if you try to keep the end that was attached to the vine down towards the inside of the pot, they will come out easier and the juices will not splash as much all over the place.
The rest of the execution is pretty easy and straightforward. It did take about 40 minutes though to reach the correct thickness, but that could be due to the fact that the Concord grapes I got this time were extremely juicy, so there may have been more liquid than usual. The spoon trick is perfect. I filled five eight-ounce jars.
I believe I will be doing this all over again and gift wrapping them nicely as Christmas presents!
The first challenge—finding Concord grapes—was surprisingly easy! I called Whole Foods and they had them. So did my local produce market, and so did my local Jewel (part of Albertsons). However, when I asked at my produce market about how long these grapes would be in season, I was told it’s a short season this year. If you miss the season this year, mark this recipe for next fall!
This is full-flavored, rich, aromatic, thick and nicely textured, with a regal luxurious look in the pan and in the jar. The hint of citrus is a pleasant addition; the finished jam is sweet enough that it could be made with all lemon or a combination of lemon and lime as well.
The taste brought back memories of my mother’s and my grandmother’s Concord grape jam and Concord grape wine. Toss in a little memory of Mogen David wine as well! And what’s most wonderful is to fall in love with grape jam all over again! This is nothing like the ubiquitous little tasteless packets of grape jelly in diners, or even Welch’s grape jelly.
For holiday gift-giving, this recipe could easily be multiplied out to double or beyond, or, for quick home use, it could also be halved. It’s quick and easy enough to make a special batch for breakfast or brunch! The first part, squeezing out the flesh from the skins, was fun and surprisingly easy: they popped right out! When my pot was boiling, I did need to turn it down a couple of times—just slightly each time. When I tested at the 20-minute mark, I left the pot boiling, and the jam tested done. Next time, I’ll either start testing at 15 minutes, or turn the heat off while performing the doneness test: it got a little beyond an easily spreadable consistency. My batch yielded no white foam needing to be skimmed off from the surface.