Grape? Nuts!

I know, I know. I know what I said but what was I supposed to do? There they were, sitting incognito among the berries, containers of blue Concord grapes. How could I pass them by? It’s been a year, after all, since I saw some in a “high-end” grocery and first wondered about making jelly. Then, I saw their price. I could have bought a decent bottle of wine and a few jars of Smuckers for the cost of a few pounds of the blue beauties. Alas, I never saw them elsewhere and, when I returned the following week, even that store’s supply was gone. I resolved then and there to do better in 2011.

Before even one grape had been picked in 2011, the cherries came. Beautiful, red, tart cherries. Michigan’s sour rubies. Unable to resist, I bought some and made muffins. I soon bought more and made more muffins. I then bought even more and made even more muffins. My freezer now stuffed with muffins, I bought more and baked a pie. Then I bought more and froze them. And still the pushers vendors at the farmers’ markets had more for me to buy. Little did I know that the path to canning is laden with tart cherries.

At first, it wasn’t really canning. There was no hot water bath. You have to have a hot water bath for canning. Everyone knows that. This was just filling jars with cooked cherries; a means of occupying that dead space in the back of the fridge. Then came the Michigan strawberries. Smaller than the Gulliver-sized berries found at most groceries, these little babies are a third the size and three times as sweet. I just had to buy some, especially after I found Mom’s recipe for making strawberry jam. Mom was telling me to make jam. And so I did. Mom said to use a hot water bath. And so I did. This, as I told a few of you, still wasn’t canning. I was merely dabbling. Yes, that’s right. Dabbling. Well, the fruit of my dabbles hadn’t even set yet when I saw them, the Concords, at less than half the price of last year’s sighting. I ask you, how could I pass them by? Don’t even bother answering that question.  I bought ’em.

On the way home from the fruit marked, I stopped by a grocery and bought Certo brand’s low-sugar pectin. Next stop was a hardware store, the only place I know that carries little jars and lids. When I got home, I searched the recipe book Mom had given me but, unfortunately, there was no recipe for grape jelly. Turning to the internet, I found the Pick Your Own website and it has all the information one might need to can preserve just about anything. Now, armed with the pectin’s package instructions and the ever-so-helpful guidelines at Pick Your Own, I set out to make grape jelly. Lo and behold! About 2 hours and 1 ruined t-shirt later, I was the proud owner of 7 cups of Concord grape jelly. Moments before beginning this entry, I checked and all had set properly, their lids fully sealed. There remains but 1 thing to do.

Hello. My name is ChgoJohn and I’m a canner.

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Concord Grape Jelly Recipe        

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 pounds fresh Concord grapes, washed & sorted with stems removed
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 box Certo low-sugar pectin
  • water

Directions

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the grapes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. If you own a food mill or Roma strainer:
    1. Run the semi-cooked grapes and liquid through the food mill or food strainer, extracting as much juice as possible.
    2. Pass the liquid through a jelly bag or a sieve lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth. Gently squeeze the bag or cheese cloth to fully extract more juice. If you squeeze too hard, you may force some solids through the cloth. Proceed to step 4.
  3. If you do not own a food mill or Roma strainer:
    1. Pour the semi-cooked grapes and liquid through a jelly bag or sieve lined with 3 layers of cheese cloth. This will take some time as the grape seeds and skins will clog the cloth’s “pores.”
    2. When able, gather the corners of the cheese cloth or the top of the jelly bag, secure them, and hang over a pot in the fridge or a cool place overnight.
    3. Next morning, gently squeeze the bag/cheese cloth to extract more juice. If you squeeze too hard, you may force some solids through the cloth.
    4. Pour the grape juice though a sieve that has been lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth. Gently squeeze the cloth to fully extract the juice.
  4. Precisely measure the grape juice. You will need 5 1/2 cups of juice for this recipe and you may add up to 1/2 cup of water to reach that amount.
  5. In a large bowl or container, measure exactly 3 1/4 cups of sugar.
  6. In a small bowl, combine the pectin and precisely 1/4 cup of sugar.
  7. In a large saucepan, over med-high heat, add the grape juice and the sugar-pectin mixture. Bring to a rolling boil. It should take about 10 minutes.
  8. At this point, your jars, lids, and bands should be fully cleaned and sanitized. The jars should still be hot.
  9. Add the 3 1/4 cups of sugar, mix well, and bring back to a rolling boil, stirring frequently.
  10. Once a rolling boil has been achieved, continue cooking for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and begin filling the jars. Once filled, wipe clean the mouth of each jar, seal with a lid & band, and place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes — or as indicated for your elevation.
  11. Remove from the hot water bath and place on a towel-lined baking sheet. Do not disturb for 12 – 24 hours to insure a proper seal has been achieved.
  12. Store in cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
  13. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, don’t bother with processing and just refrigerate.

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Notes

There you have it. I’ve admitted crossing over the Great Divide and into the Realm of Canning. I guess I should be at least a little upset over this turn of events but, frankly, how can I be upset when I’ve got a year’s worth of jams and jelly at my disposal? This canning thing ain’t so bad after all.

For everyone’s convenience, please form the “I told you so!” queue to your left.

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41 thoughts on “Grape? Nuts!

  1. Brilliant recipe (I have wanted to learn how to do this for ages) and brilliant post…am still chuckling. Maybe we could form a blogging circle of Canners Anonymous?! I think quite a few of us would need to sign up…but I´m not sure I want to kick the habit quite yet. Oh yes, forgot to say…”I told you so!”.

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    • And now we’re both chuckling. There is an alternative recipe, one that uses about 4 cups of juice and 7 1/2 cups of sugar. I wouldn’t dream of using that much sugar. This jelly is certainly sweet enough and you’ll be pleased with it, I’m sure.

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  2. Growing up, we had 8 or so concord vines my dad used to make homemade wine — I used them for snacking in August. It is an annual ritual at my house to buy a bag or two and just eat them. Thanks for the reminder of Home. 🙂

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    • You’re very welcome, Judy. That’s what this blog is all about. For me, it’s a walk down Memory Lane, recording the family recipes and stories that I grew up on for the youngest members of the Bartolini Clan. It’s a wonderful side benefit to get comments like yours, that a particular post or recipe reminds someone of a loved one or of “Home.” Come on back and I’ll try to do it again.

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  3. On the east side of Providence, in the old neighborhoods that once housed immigrant families from Italy and Portugal, the grape arbors still grow. Some trail along a fence, some grow over the old clothelines, with a few old wooden lawnchairs beneath them in the shade. While a few of them might be the descendants of Old World grapes brought over in the steamer trunk, most are our winter-hardy native concords. The houses now belong to the great-grandchildren of those original families, and not many of them make wine anymore. But lots of them make jelly…

    Welcome to your new extended family!

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    • How wonderful that those homes stayed within the families! Grandpa had about 8 to 10 green Concord vines that he treated ever so gingerly. He never made wine with the grapes but we did enjoy them as August progressed. Although it’s understandable, it is a shame that no one grabbed a vine before that house was sold. Thank you for welcoming me to the fold. I’ll try not to be an embarrassment.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Truth be told, I knew I’d be making grape jelly once I started making the cherry jam. It was only a matter of time — and a whole lot of fun kidding around with everyone.

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    • This has been a completely unexpected exercise in canning but oh so much fun in the process. Zia has a recipe for one other item that I’d like to try and can … er .. bottle. I think that will be the end of it for me. We’ll just have to wait and see what next year brings. And you have a great week, too, Mandy!

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    • This is pretty much it for me. There’s 1 more recipe of my Aunt’s, “Zia,” that I want to try, but, we’ll see about that. Right now, this is my tomato season. I buy Romas by the half-bushel, peel ’em, chop ’em or send them through my strainer, and then freeze ’em. This year I think I’ll only do a bushel. That should give me about 30 quarts, give or take. Then, between my jam & tomatoes, I’ll be ready for WInter.

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  4. This “canner” deal is such not a bad thing… look at those beautiful jars filled with homemade jam! You should feel so proud! I would, if I ever was to be a canner!! You’ve written this out so nicely, step by step, making it look soo easy! Love how the jelly looks on your toast!

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    • Well, if you don’t want to be a canner, stay away from those tart cherries. It’s all their fault. I tried to make the instructions as complete as possible for fellow newbies. The one thing I missed — for myself, as well — was to tell people to wear black — unless green t-shirts with blue freckles are on-trend now. See? This canning thing is just one, big learning experience.

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    • Excuse me but the “I knew it” people should be standing with the “I told you so!” crowd on the left. Still, you are here, so, let me say thanks for the welcome and I’ll try not to besmirch the club by distributing botulism to my family and friends.

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  5. Powerful, powerful stuff! Intense grape flavor!
    “When rich people do something nice for you, you give ’em a pot of jam.” ~ Seven Degrees of Separation

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    • Glad you enjoyed it, Jake. Now, please, tell me something. How long have you hung onto that quote? It’s not exactly memorable like, say, something from Poor Richard’s Almanac or a quote of Will Rogers.

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  6. You are a STAR. Not bad for a canner. I am picking huge bunches of grapes today from the verandah. Grape jelly wandered across my mind once but I just kept eating. But there are more. How clever of you to give me the recipe I needed today! Today! I will go and find an old T-shirt c

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    • Yes, that’s me. The clever canner! Why couldn’t I have been clever enough to wear a black t-shirt? I must admit, though, the grape jelly did come out very well. My taste testers will back me up. Good luck with your jelly-making!

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    • So, sorry. With only 2 deliveries remaining to be made, our jam & jelly operation is now closed for the year. Considering how surprisingly easy this was, I’ll re-open production next year — if I can figure out what to do with all of these empty jars in the meantime.

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  7. Just have to respond to this: :Hello. My name is ChgoJohn and I’m a canner.” Sounds like the greeting that Bill W. used to open his meetings, so it does looks like you are indeed addicted! But in your case, this just might be a good thing. Glad to read of your enjoyment as you wear the fruits of your labors on your sleeve (among other places)…
    😉

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    • Well, Cris, speaking from experience, “If it walks like a duck …”

      Actually, identifying myself as a canner ain’t so bad, although I’m still waiting for my welcome basket and secret handshake instructions. I mean, without these, I may have just joined a cult.

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  8. Looks delicious!! I have just recently started canning jams and jellies too. I had been intimated by the process for so long but finally I tried it and now I am hooked. 🙂

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    • It’s a simple process involving a few ingredients and the results are delicious! Really, what’s not to love? Now that I, too, am over that fear, I’ll be making jams & jelly every year..

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  9. I just had 2 slices of toast with your grape jelly on them. Amazing how great it tastes and there were only 4 ingredients in the recipe. I’m hooked.

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    • Thanks, Chris, and I agree. Such a simple recipe and such worthwhile results. I had no idea and will be doing this every year. Not to worry. You’re on the delivery route.

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  10. Pingback: Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Black Pepper | from the Bartolini kitchens

  11. Pingback: Braised Goat in the Moorish Style | from the Bartolini kitchens

    • That’s fantastic, Lidia. Did you know that you can make grape jelly from grape juice? Look for fresh or frozen natural juice with no added sugar. You’ll need 5.5 cups and it makes surprisingly good jelly. Best of all, it’s easy to make. I have a couple grape jelly lovers in my circle and jelly made from grape juice is a welcome surprise in the Winter months. 🙂

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  12. All this smacks of OCD – I think I shall have to follow suit🙄 Meanwhile, the last photo made me hungry, so I’m off to make some toast and break out the blackberry jelly I made last week ( having picked those blackberries personally)

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