Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Concord Grape Jam

About 4 years ago, I was lucky enough to find a treasure trove of concord grapes growing on my property. They were growing so nicely along the ground and climbing up on an old picnic bench that I had stored out by my shed. I visited them quite often to make sure I kept them off the ground, putting a few small garden trellises under the growing vines. Summer was coming to an end and, my grapes were turning dark purple. They were ready to be picked! Those grapes made the most wonderful grape jam.  The following spring my husband put up a grape arbor, and I've had the good fortune to be the recipient of those flavorful concord grapes ever since!
Late August early September is the season for concord grapes in NJ. As I walk out by my grape arbor, the scent of these grapes permeate the air. They have the strong aromatic fragrance of a freshly opened bottle of red wine or the Welches grape juice my mom used to buy for us when we were kids. I always remember my mom making this wonderful grape jam when I was a kid. A friend of hers would bring her a basket of grapes every year that she picked from her yard. I still use my mom's  old recipe from Sure-Jell. The recipe is folded, cracked and hard to make out...but every year I pull it out and follow those instructions just like my mom did.
My mom's old recipe sheet...this happens to be the jelly side
Beautiful grapes growing on my arbor
Our grape arbor

This is just one colander full of concord grapes

Concord Grapes grow wild in most of the northeast. They have a dark purplish black skin, and are often covered in a harmless layer of white bloom. They're usually less sweet than traditional grapes. They are also a "slip-skin" variety of grape, which means that they pop right out of their skin when you give them a little pinch. The wild grape is smaller then your cultivated grape and has several pits in each one.
This year I was able to pick enough for two batches of jam. After I slip the skins off the grapes, I put the skins in a food processor and process. I then add the skins to the grapes and cook them down. After that I put the boiled fruit through a food mill. The result is a thick wonderful juice that makes an amazing jam. A time consuming job but, if you tasted this jam you would think it was well worth the effort! Recently I found a recipe from Sure-Jell on the Kraft web-site that is the same as my mom's. I've shared it here for you.

Slipping the skin off one of the concord grapes 
Grapes that have had the skin slipped off
The skins
The skins being processed in food processor
Pulp and grape skins mixed together
Stirring the Sure-Jell into the pot of grape juice
After I ladle the jam into the jars and seal them,  I turn them upside down for 5 minutes....this is called the inversion method...I use this rather than the water bath method. I would only use this method on jams and jellies because the liquid is at such a high temperature.
Some of my Grape Jam ready to give to friends and family

Sure-Jell Grape Jam

what you need

6 cups prepared fruit (buy about 4 lb. fully ripe Concord grapes)
1 cup water
1 box SURE-.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
7-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

make it

BRING boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.

SLIP skins from grapes. Finely chop or grind skins; set aside. Mix grape pulp and water in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 min. Press through sieve to remove seeds. Combine skins and pulp. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.

STIR in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)


  1. Living in SoCal where property is such a luxury, it's amazing to me that you just found these grapes growing on your property! We planted 2 stakes of grapes this year on either side of an arbor, but they're still babies! I hope to have some as lovely as yours in a few years.

    It's been so cool this summer that we're still harvesting tomatoes and zucchini in our garden.

  2. I envy the people who are gifted with one of these jars. No, I am totally jealous of who gets one of these jars. The arbor of grapes is so beautiful. I never saw these when we lived in New York! I can't imagine how delicious this must taste.

  3. Your grape arbor is lovely! I love that you still have your mom's Sure Jell instruction pamphlet and you still use it. What great gifts these will make. I can almost smell the grapes from your description.

  4. Oh, my gosh, Kathy! What a beautiful arbor! And this jam must be outstanding!!! I would love it on my morning toast :)

    PS...I was just thinking of buying some new gratin dishes...think my new pantries will fill up quickly. Glad I'm in good company with my plethora of baking supplies!!!

  5. Thanks for sharing! Your arbor is beautiful.

  6. I love those old, time-worn recipes. There is something about pulling out that yellowed slip of paper that makes my heart do a little leap.
    For a while, I was lucky enough to be in posession of my grandmother's cooking notebook and reading over each of her hand written words made me feel like she was in the kitchen with me...

  7. Delightful post! I just spied baskets of concord grapes in the market, I've made grape jelly once a long time and remember it was fun but a lot of work! I sure wish I was getting one of your jars;-)

  8. This looks like such delicious jam! What a find on your property!

  9. This is so fun..I'd love to can my own jam but I never have. My mother in law does and she loves it. I'll be sure to share this with her. PS - your blog is adorable, this is my first time here!

  10. Love the cared for recipe, with original notes and creases. It is the sign of something that is a keeper. I love homemade jams, these look amazing.

  11. Thank you for visiting me..I'm always so glad when I find new friends from USA.... well...I Know my English is not so good, but I like to shera my recipes with you!!!

    I have to try your mom grape jam recipe...hugs and have a happy day, ciao Flavia

  12. What a beautiful post and what a beautiful tradition to keep. My grandfather occasionally made homemade jam and it was delicious. Your friends and family are very lucky.

  13. Wow, that arbor is gorgeous! What a beautiful yard-- you must have been thrilled to find the grape vines. The jam looks delicious and even better that it came from your own grapes. Homemade jam is such a treat!

  14. I'm envious of anyone who grows their own fruit. What a treat! My mom made jam for years when I was growing up, but we don't eat much so I've never been in the habit of making it myself.

  15. I love looking through my mother's mother's old recipes. Cooking from family recipes is a great way of enacting our heritage. You're so lucky to have found those grape vines and you've made great use of them.