Concord grapes

Concord grapes from A.B. Orchards in Paradise.

Grape jelly has long been on my canning wish list, but frankly, I was afraid to ask. I worried it might be complicated and involved added pectin. And of course, there’s the matter of tracking down the grapes. Here in Lancaster, that is not a problem, as I’ve discovered; I have found Concord grapes (and other wine grapes such as Catawba) at a few farm stands, including Lapp’s (1406 Lampeter Road) and A.B. Orchards (5766-5768 White Oak Rd, Paradise), which makes me think there are more farms out there with the grape goods. (Let me know if you have a favorite grape spot.)

The recipe that follows comes from cookbook author Cathy Barrow (and one of my canning comrades). Barrow set my mind at ease and told me that the seeds in the grapes are chock-full of pectin, which makes its way into the juice and helps create a gelled set (along with sugar and lemon juice). The results are sublime. I’m pretty sure I’m making grape jelly every September until the end of time. Go forth and get yourself some grapes.

GRAPE JELLY

Adapted from “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry” by Cathy Barrow.

Makes 4 or 5 half-pints .

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds wine grapes, plucked from their stems
  • 4 cups granulated sugar (KOD note: I reduced the amount to 2 1/2 cups, understanding the risk of my jelly not setting. Proceed at your own risk.)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (or 3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice with 5% acidity)
  • Tools: cheesecloth or jelly bag

Directions:

1. Place the grapes in a nonreactive pot and light crush with a potato masher.

2. Barely cover with cold water and bring to a brisk boil. Cook at a hard boil for 5 minutes.

3. Ladle the boiled grapes into a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a catch bowl. Let drip for up to 2 hours (it might take much less time). Do not press or squeeze the fruit, or the jelly will be cloudy.

4. Measure out 4 cups of juice and enjoy the rest as a cook’s treat.

5. Place the 4 cups of juice in a nonreactive pot along with the sugar and lemon juice. (KOD note: In recent years, I have been using a 14-inch skillet to cook fruit preserves because it offers more surface area than a deep pot and reduces efficiently.)

6. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil that will not stir down.

7. Stir constantly (but carefully, as the mixture can splatter) and keep heat on high until the foam clears and the temperature has reached 220 F, about 10 minutes.

8. Remove from heat and check the set: Put a few small plates in the freezer. Drop a spoonful of jelly onto the plate and wait for about 1 minute. Drag your finger through the jelly; if a clear path remains and doesn’t fill back up, then the set is good. It might also wrinkle a tad.

9. Prepare a pot for water bath canning (or have jars ready for refrigerator jam). Ladle into warm jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.

10. Wipe the rims clean with a damp towel.

11. Place the lids and rings on top and tighten.

12. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool for 24 hours.

13. Because this is jelly, “do not judge the gel when it is still warm,” writes Barrow. The jelly might even be soft for a few days, she told me last week (and she was right).

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