Monday, August 25, 2014

Concord Grape Preserves

For the past fourteen years that we've lived in our current home, we've had a beautiful, abundant crop of concord grapes out back. The grape vine was planted by the previous owners, along with several fruit trees. But because the grapes are quite a lot of work to process, almost all of them have gone to waste. But not this year!

Thanks to my friends Patti and Michelle, this year a small portion of those grapes were used to make preserves. I put my complete trust in Michelle, who found the recipe, organized the process, provided her lovely kitchen and equipment for us to use, and taught us how to can. Patti provided her tireless labor and constant good cheer throughout the MANY hours on our feet, as well as all these photos of our preparation and cooking.

We started with two grocery bags full of grapes, fresh off the vines.
Step one involved squeezing EACH GRAPE to separate the pulp and pits from the skins.

The pulp needed to be cooked for just a few minutes until softened. The pulp was then strained through a food mill to remove the seeds.
 The skins were pulsed several times in a food processor to chop them into small pieces. We wanted to avoid large mouthfuls of grape skin in the final product. Then the strained pulp (8 cups) and the chopped skins (8 cups) were combined with 6 cups of sugar in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pot. One half teaspoon of butter was added to keep the mixture from foaming. (This trick works like a charm!) This mixture was cooked down at a slow boil until it reached a temperature of 220F. We also tested a spoonful on a saucer in the fridge for a few minutes for thickness. We were looking for a thick jam, not at all runny.

The thickened jam was then ladled (very professionally!) into the hot, sterilized canning jars. The rims were carefully wiped before the lids were placed on top. Next, the jars were submerged in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to complete the process. As the jars cooled on a rack, we could hear the popping sound of the lids sealing.

We made a total of 17 jars of grape preserves, working from 10:30am until about 5:30pm with an hour-long break for lunch. Luckily the weather cooperated and it was a cool, rainy day. Perfect for indoor canning! The finished product is a delicious, grapey, not-too-sweet preserve that will be perfect on a PB and J or great with cheese and crackers. Our next project? Grape pies!!!


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