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This example shows you how to make grape jam. You can use this recipe to make almost any type of jam from the fruit juice; where there is a difference, I will point it out! The yield from this recipe is about 12 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 6 pints).
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones! You can use Concord grapes, red grapes or other grapes. Whichever you choose, you want flavorful grapes. Plain seedless white/green grapes, for example, have little flavor and make a bland jam. Most people choose Concord grapes or red grapes. Seedless or with seeds doesn't matter, as the strainer will remove them!
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time.
Above are grapes that I picked at a pick-your-own farm. If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
Grape Jelly can ONLY be made in rather small batches - about 6 cups at a time - like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the grape jam won't "set" (jell, thicken). As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use either 5 lbs of fresh grapes or 5 cups of grape juice (either bottled or reconstituted from frozen concentrate) without added sugar. Using grape juice is especially useful if you want to make some grape jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it's better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the grapes in a large bowl under running plain cold water.
Pick out any stems and leaves that became mixed in!
Check the directions with the pectin; typically, it is 7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of grape juice and one box of regular pectin. You can use about half as much sugar if you use the "no-sugar-needed" pectin. The precise measurements are found in each and every box of pectin sold. Mix the dry pectin with about 1/4 cup of the sugar and keep this separate from the rest of the sugar. If you are not using sugar, you'll just have to stir more vigorously to prevent the pectin from clumping.
You mush the grapes to release the juice. A potato masher is useful to help crush them. But if you really want to ,make it easy, just use your food processor or chopper, just a few chops, don't pureee them. OR a juicer. A steam juicer really does a good job of it.
Obviously, if you use seedless grapes, you can use a blender or chopper. If you chop grapes with seeds in them, you will get bits of seeds in the jam.
The bottom line is, to make jam, we'll need to crush the grapes well so we can extract the juice. You'll need about 5 cups of juice.
If you use a juicer, you can juice the grapes, then skip to step 8.
Put the grapes in a pot and add enough water to just cover the grapes. Put the crushed grapes in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning) for until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. We just want to soften the skins to help release the juice and break down some of the fruit to help it pass through our juice strainer.
You can either put the soft cooked grapes through a jam strainer (about $9.00, see ordering at right) which results in the most clear jam and is easiest to use, or pour them through cheesecloth in a colander. Or if you don't mind chunky jam, just let the juice stand for 20 minutes, and decant (pour off) the clear liquid to use and leave the solids behind.
You may also want to run the crushed cooked grapes through a Foley food mill (about $20 - see this page) BEFORE the jam strainer - it helps to extract more juice and jet out the large skins that will clog the strainer. It's not necessary, but helps you get the most out of the grapes.
My preference is a Foley food mill. It's fast, easy, traps the seeds and thick skins, but lets the most juice and pulp through.
Some people prefer to simply run the juice through a blender to finely puree the pulp, skins and all. That's fine, and certainly easier (and faster) than using a fabric seive.
If you need a stopping point and want to finish up the next day, this is a good place. Sometimes, jam gets crystals, called tartrate crystals, forming in the jam. They're not harmful and don't affect the taste, but some people don't like the appearance. I rarely even see them! But if you do, let juice stand in a cool place overnight, then strain through two thicknesses of damp cheesecloth to remove any crystals that have formed.
Stir the pectin into the grape juice and put the mix in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away).
Notes about pectin: I usually add about 25% - 30% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jam is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you'll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.
Another tip: use the low sugar or no-sugar pectin. It cuts the amount of sugar you need from 7 cups per batch to 4 cups. And it tastes even better! On the other hand; I still add some sugar, even with the No-sugar pectin. With no added sugar, the batches always turned out runny and bland. You might want to try using the low sugar recipe with a mixture of sugar and Stevia (or if you prefer, agave, honey or Splenda); that could work, but you do get the best results with sugar.
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If you didn't do so already, put the lids into a pan of hot water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
When the grape-pectin mix has reached a full boil, add the rest of the sugar (about 6 and 3/4 cups of sugar per 5 cup batch of grape juice; 4 cups of sugar if you are using the low or no-sugar pectin) and then bring it back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/4 to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.
Fill them to within 1/4-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs come in really handy!
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 5 minutes, which is what SureJell (the makers of the pectin) recommend. I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly - and see the Table below for altitude differences. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. Note: Some people don't even boil the jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, but putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage! To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jam and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil!
|Table 1. Recommended process time for Grape Jelly in a boiling water canner.|
|Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Style of Pack||Jar Size||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 - 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
Lift the jars out of the water with your jar lifter tongs and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!
From left to right:
Q. I was reading the instructions on making grape jam. We have a super-duper juicer that we can run the grapes through and skip the grape-food processor/ crushing steps, but is that a suitable thing to do?
A. Sure, that ought to work great!
Q. I don't have a jelly sieve, so you suggest cheesecloth (which I do have). Will the jelly come out clear using cheesecloth (even doubled up). I really don't want to use a pillow case as I've heard is the way to go. Will cheesecloth do the trick?
Yup! It just depends what you want to achieve. The finer the cloth, the more clear the final product. But that also reduces the yield, and the "cloudiness" is actually bits of fruit, which I like!