Let me just say that my jam-making skills are in their infancy. All I have to my name are a batch of chili-tomato jam (which is so hot that we've been afraid to use it on anything!) and a batch of strawberry jam afflicted with fruit-float. Delicious, but wanting. But that doesn't faze me in the slightest. Success only comes through perseverance, so I will persevere.
After coming home from Peace Valley Winery with our half sinkful of grapes, Jeff and I rolled up our sleeves and began prepping for jam-making. I had a blast separating the grapes from their skins - just pinch them and the green centers pop right out of the purple skins. (A fun task for kids, I'd imagine, and more hands would prevent it from becoming tedious.)
So far, we're thrilled with this batch. The recipe doesn't call for added pectin - it uses what is naturally in the grape skins to set the jam. All of my jars sealed nicely, popping as soon as they were removed from the hot water. We've yet to open one and try it out, but based on the pan leavings we consumed, the set seemed fine and the jam tasted delicious! And, wonder of wonders, we managed to get fifty percent more jam than the recipe called for (six half-pints instead of four). This is a miracle, as we have a history of managing to reduce recipe yields by half. I imagine this has something to do with differences in stove heat and pan size and cooking time. But in this case, it doesn't matter - it just means that there's more jam for us to enjoy!
Important note: What makes this recipe so wonderful is that we used fresh, in-season grapes. I'm sure you could use seedless supermarket grapes and save yourself some hassle, but you'd be losing out on flavor. Supermarket grapes are sweet and unassuming; the more delicate seasonal varieties explode in your mouth, the sweet balanced with tart and a flavor that is quintessentially grapey. Go to the farmers market and grab yourself some in-season, local grapes if you really want good jam!
Classic Grape Jam
From Put 'Em Up.
8 cups grapes (about 2 lbs)
1/2 c water
4 c sugar
1/4 c lemon juice
Pinch the grapes to separate the skins from the flesh, putting them in separate bowls. Place the skins in a large nonreactive saucepan, add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, simmer the grape flesh until it loses shape, about 8-10 minutes. Cool slightly and put through a food mill to remove the seeds.
Add the seedless flesh to the grape skins. Stir in sugar until it dissolves, then add the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring, for about 10 minutes, until you reach the gel stage (I was using the sheet test, recommended by Marisa from Food In Jars).
Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes, skimming off any foam. Process 10 minutes using boiling water method. (The recipe claims it will yield 4 cups, but I got 6 and the set seemed fine.)