Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Have you ever eaten a concord grape? I had never given them a second thought (aside from Welch's commercials) until I moved to New York four years ago and started reading fancy restaurant dessert menus for fun. As soon as fall rolled around, the concord grapes rolled in everywhere, as gelee served with foie gras, as sorbet served with peanut butter ice cream, in pie? Obviously, I had to have some for myself and let me tell you, concord grapes are serious business. Forget about those red and green things they sell in the grocery store, these are Grapes with a capital G. They are sweet, tart, musky, rich, and dare I say they taste a lot like "grape flavored" candy without that cloying artificial finish. They are awesome eaten as is if you don't mind seeds, their juice is incredible on it's own or in a cocktail, but I couldn't resist making jelly with mine.
I try not to use any pectin in my jam making, but sometimes you need just a bit to make sure it sets, especially when making jelly. I love using Pomona's Universal Pectin for projects like this, you can find it in health food stores. It is activated by calcium rather than sugar which means you can use as much or little sweetener as you like and you can even use alternatives like honey, agave, and maple syrup.
Grape Jelly, adapted from Pomona's Universal Pectin
yield 1 8oz jar
1 lb concord grapes, destemmed
2T lemon juice
3T honey or 1/4-3/4c sugar (or agave or any other sweetener you like)
1/2t Pomona's universal pectin powder
1/2t calcium water, prepared with package directions
1. In a heavy bottomed pot combine the grapes, water and lemon juice. Mash with a potato masher, I used a ladle, whatever works. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 min.
2. Pour into a jelly bag or cheesecloth lined strainer and let drip until the juice stops, about one cup. If you don't mind if your jelly isn't perfectly clear you can give the bag a gentle squeeze, but not too hard, you don't want any pulp to escape. At this point Pomona's suggests letting the juice sit overnight so any sediment settles to the bottom. I didn't do it and I didn't notice any crystallization in my jelly.
3. Add the juice and prepared amount of calcium water to a clean pot. Measure your sweetener into a separate bowl and mix in the pectin powder.
4. Bring juice to a boil, add sweetener and pectin and stir constantly until the pectin dissolves (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat.
5. Fill prepared jar to 1/4'' below the rim, wipe off rim, screw on the lid and process in a boiling water bath for 10 min. Store jar in a cool dry spot and refrigerate when opened.
This recipe makes a pretty small amount of jelly so if you find yourself with a surplus of grapes you can multiply as needed.
Best eaten on wheat toast with peanut butter. Or you can be totally wild and serve it on a cheese plate with a nice blue cheese and water crackers.