My cousin Ed wanted to learn to make jam, but our Sparkle Supreme strawberry bed was new to us, so the season came and went (deliciously, I might add!) before we had a chance to “jam it up.”
So, when a friend asked if we could use 25 pounds of Concord grapes, we leapt at the next chance to teach Ed the fine art of jam-making.
Next — and this is crucial — you need a preserving pan. Mine is pictured here:
This pan was purchased as part of a set by Frank’s aunt in 1954 at Wanamaker’s as a wedding present for Frank’s mother. It has a lid, but I’ve never used it.
Preserving pans are wide and shallow with heavy bottoms so that as much water evaporates from the jam/jelly/preserves as possible. It is MUCH easier (and faster) to get your jam to jell if you use a preserving pan than a regular saucepan. If you decide you like to make jam/jelly/preserves, invest in a preserving pan — it’s worth having.
As the recipe suggests, we pinched the skins off the grapes, then ground them in the food processor with a cup of sugar, then placed the gloop in the perserving pan with the skinned grapes, more sugar and lemon juice.
One of the reasons I wanted to teach Ed to make grape jam is that there is enough pectin in the grapes to jell the jam without adding pectin. Start simple, then get complicated!
I also use a wooden paddle instead of a wooden spoon to stir the jam — it keeps the fruit mixture moving so that there is less chance of scorching or burning.
After a slow boil for 20 minutes, the grapes break down enough to release their seeds. No one wants to break a tooth on a hard Concord grape seed, so into the food mill the fruit mixture goes.
I used a Corelle cup to put the literally BOILING HOT fruit mix into the food mill and had a pryex bowl under the mill. Don’t use anything that might melt or break — go for the pyrex and be safe!
The seeds/skins left in the food mill go to the compost pile while the jam that passed through the food mill goes back into the preserving pan (which was rinsed out to remove any seed and skin fragments).
Another slow boil until the jam is jelled (directions in the recipe) and after a hour to cool down (yes, it’s THAT HOT!), we have jam to eat!
While the recipe has instructions on how to can the jam, I figured just making refrigerator jam was enough for my cousin Ed at this point. Right now, it’s in the frig while we munch on Peanut Butter and Concord Jam sandwiches and give out containers to those that helped us on this journey.
We had about 19 pounds of useable fruit and made about 9 pounds of Concord Grape Jam. My cousin Ed has decided he is NOT going to kick it all and become an Artisianal Jam Maker, but we had fun and are prepared for the strawberry harvest next year!