Fresh Ideas: Homemade Jam

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I don’t grow my own concord grapes, but they’re available at local markets this time of year. I thought it would be fun to turn them into a healthier version of the preservative and sugar-filled grape jelly we’ve all come to know and love.

Concord grapes have large seeds, and as soon as I went to work seeding them, I realized this was not going to be an easy task. So I decided to try briefly processing the grapes whole in my blender. I started with about 5 1/2 cups of grapes, and ended up with just over 4 cups of grape “mush”. My goal was not to process the grapes for long- I did not want pulverized grape seeds in the jam- I just wanted to loosen the seeds so I could strain them out.

Next, I used a food mill to separate out the skins and the seeds. These went in my compost. If you don’t have a food mill, you could try pushing the liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth.

I added some organic sugar (I used 2/3 cup but you could use more or less to your preference) and brought the liquid to a boil over high heat in a pot on the stove. I then reduced the heat a bit and cooked it down for about an hour, stirring every now and then. I watched my grape liquid like a hawk to make sure it didn’t burn.

After a while, though, there was a noticeable thickening, and I turned off the heat to allow it to cool so I could taste it. As it cooled, I was pleasantly surprised to see it thicken even more into a jam consistency.

I got 1 cup of jam out of this recipe: one beautifully purple cup of thick grape jam with incredible flavor. It thickens even more once it’s been in the refrigerator overnight, so make sure you don’t cook it down too much initially, or it will be too thick to spread.

I am storing this jam in the refrigerator and expect it to last for a month or two. It’s great on whole grain bread with organic peanut or your favorite alternative nut or seed butter. Note that if you want to make a larger batch of grape jam for canning, you’ll need to add lemon juice and use more sugar, and follow a recipe that’s meant for shelf stability.

–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.

Photo credits: Winnie Abramson

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