Monday, September 5, 2011

concord grape jelly

A few years ago, I bought a stick from the Home Depot with a label that said "Concord Grape" on it.

I say I bought a stick, because I couldn't really believe it was going to turn into a grape vine. I planted it in the sandiest, crappiest part of our yard, which was behind our basketball goal, and in the two feet between the driveway and the neighbor's fence. I gave it the best start in life that I could as the possessor of the Black Thumb of Death. Anything that grows for me dies a slow death either from too much water, or not enough, from neglect or obsessive love. From ambitious plans in subpar soil. It reminds me of when I showed my friend Sid my bonzai. "I think it is dying, Sid."  She looked at it, the branch she gently touch crumbled beneath her fingers. "Oh, honey, I think your bonzai is already dead."

I don't know why I thought the grapes would be different, but I think it is my ultimately optimistic view of the universe, like Sisyphus, I imagine the rock might stay the next time. One must imagine me happy. I hoped that we could have a fenceline of concord grapes, which rank a solid two in my favorite fruits of all time. (Strawberries win it.) And in the end, somehow Dionysus took pity.

This year, imagine my surprise when the grapes actually friggin' grew. I was surprised at least. I actually like grapes. The grape vine exploded. I have no idea what I am doing, but I asked Sam to make some kind of fancy fency, and string them up.

Layers and layers of concord grapes. It looks like someone who knows what they are doing, even though by all rights they should be dead.

Last year, I had some grapes that grew ripe. I ate one off the vine and vowed to pick them all the next day, but when I went outside the next morning, they were all gone. It was like some clever crow heard my braggardly and lazy ways and alerts the swarms of crows that descended. This year, I tried desperately hard to stay on top of it. Concord grapes are one of the few fruits that stop ripening off the plant, so you must pick them when ripe and beat the birds.

Friday, my mother and I went outside with some buckets and the kids and picked, and picked, and picked and picked. Then posed the children in this very unnatural way with the bowls of grapes in front of them, because don't you always let your kids hang out on the floor with the dog and his Kong ball and play with grapes?

 I poured myself a large tall iced coffee and got to work. I got this recipe from my sister for a small batch of concord grape jam or jelly or preserves. I don't know which is which, but the ingredients are literally grapes and sugar, so maybe someone can help me figure out which I made.

 Started with four cups of concord grapes. (Or one quart from the market if you aren't fortunate enough to have your own grape stick.)

 You then get an 8"x8" casserole (or two quart) Put one layer of grapes down, covering the bottom.

Smoosh (sp?) them up with a potato masher. Squish them. Release the hounds juices.

 It gets soupy. Then you add the remaining grapes on top of it. Cover it and microwave it on high for three minutes. My understanding is that microwaving is recommended over cooking for fruits with a lot of pectin, which apparently concord grapes have. You then uncover and microwave for another four minutes.

 Your house smells amazing at this point. I mean, totally amazing.

 Set up a strainer with a pouring bowl underneath it. Now, remember, we started with four cups of grapes, you pour that four cups of cooked down grapes into this strainer, over a bowl. You want all the seeds out.

 Immediately, it looks like this. You push the swollen grapes through, releasing the liquid and keeping the skins and seed in the strainer.

 All said and done, it looks like this. It took a lot of squishing to get the liquid. It seemed like I wouldn't have enough, but I did.

 Grape juice looks a lot like blood.

 Four cups of grapes turned into two cups of grape juice. You then put that in a half quart saucepan. You add equal amounts of sugar to your liquid--so two cups of sugar for this batch, but it will entirely depend on how much liquid comes out of your grapes.

 Put on the stove for a quick boil, not quick as in for a minute, but quick as in a rapid boil for fifteen minutes.

They tell you to do the gel test (put a spoonful on a plate, let cool, see if it hardens.) after fifteen minutes to make sure it is turning into jelly, but that didn't work for me. It just seemed like really good grape liquid. It was delicious warm on freshly made yogurt. I was contented, even though it didn't gel. I made a stick turn into something sweet and yummy. I put it in the fridge and the next day...

It was definitely jelly.

YUM! It tastes amazing, everyone loves it, and it goes with everything. Hope you can make your own concord grape jelly/jam/preserves.  I will probably have a few more grape related recipes coming your way.


HereWeGoAJen said...

From what I understand, jam has lumps and jelly doesn't. And I just looked up what preserves are and they are like big chunks of fruit, in syrup or jam. Like canned peaches, I suppose. So you have jelly.

Your description of the children with the grapes picture was awesome. :)

Renel said...

That's just totally cool! Good Job Mama!

Sara said...

I made concord grape jelly once. I wasn't all that excited about it. And then, the smell! I have a source this year, assuming I beat the birds (and probably squirrels—they got all my peaches). Just waiting for the word they are ripe. Can't wait. Now I can't wait even more.

JoyAndSorrow said...

I know your post was about jelly, but I have to ask - do you have any special tips or tricks for making iced coffee? I am addicted to McDonald's (ew) vanilla iced coffee and would much rather make my own. But yeah. I don't know at what point to refrigerate or what to do with it - I tend to make things more complicated than they are, obviously. : p ~Lindsay

still life angie said...

Well, maybe this is gauche, but every morning, I brew a normal pot of coffee, and pour the leftover coffee into that glass pitcher. Then in the afternoon, I have iced coffee with cream. If I brew specifically for iced coffee, I brew with an extra teaspoon of coffee, to make it stronger, then pour it over ice. I hope that helps.

Hope's Mama said...

I love these posts! Yum.