Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

Epic Concord Grape Freezer Jam

Last week, I promised you my recipe for (epic) Concord grape freezer jam, and I am a girl of my word!

But first, some backstory.

A couple weeks ago, I went shopping at the new Friendly City Food Co-Op here in downtown H’burg. (They’re open to the public – go there now!). I was out of grapes – the seedless kind that I can eat mindlessly while moseying to work. At the checkout counter, the clerk asked if I’d ever eaten Concord grapes.

Nope.

He excitedly ran around the counter, plucked a bunch off of the grape stand, and handed them to me. “They have seeds, and some people don’t like to eat the skins, but I just eat the whole thing. They’re so good!” he said. I pondered how I was going to gracefully eat a grape with seeds and inedible skins while standing in line at the grocery store. Whatevs! I ate a grape.

Holy $%&!! It tasted like grape jelly!

All these years, I thought that grape jelly was just some sort of frankenfood, because it never tasted like grapes. I figured it must have been a made-up flavor, just called “grape” for some weird reason. It never struck me that I was eating the “wrong” kind of grapes, or that grape jelly was made from grapes other than the red and green seedless ones I was used to eating. Duh. So, I’m a little slow. My Food IQ has been traditionally very low!

I was immediately determined to make my own Concord grape freezer jam.

After much Googling, it became clear to me that nobody on the planet had recorded a simple account of their Concord grape freezer jam making experience. I found hodge-podge mash-ups of partial methods, tons of half-arsed instructions, and many traditional jam methods (with the whole boil-your-jars and all that jazz) – but no true freezer jam methods.

Fear not, my friends. I made freezer jam from Concord grapes, and I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it. The results are divinely delicious – dare I say, epic.

Unlike most freezer jam, Concord grape jam does require a little cooking – but don’t worry. It’s nothing hardcore (though you can call it hardcore if you’re going for a more bad-ass jar of jam. The whole grape peeling part surely earns you some bad-ass kitchen cred).

You’ll need a food processor (or immersion blender or something of that nature), a fine sieve/strainer, a potato masher, a medium sized sauce pan, a medium bowl, a small bowl, 3 8-oz jam jars/lids, 2/3 cup sugar or other sweetener by equivalent sweetness, not volume (separated 1/3 and 1/3), and 2 Tbsp no-cook instant pectin. You can use less sugar if you’d like a less sweet jam.

Let’s rock it:

1. Buy some Concord grapes. A small batch of jam is three 8-oz jars. To make that, you’ll need just under 2 cups of prepared grapes (about 1 2/3 cups, in my case), and for me, that required 3 containers of grapes. The container said 1 liter, but that made no sense. My containers were the ones that measure about 8 inches long by 4 inches wide. 3 of those.

2. Peel those grapes. Pull a grape off the stem, then squeeze the end between your thumb and forefinger. The guts of the grape will slide out easily. Put the guts into a saucepan, and the peel into your food processor. It took me a little over an hour to peel all those grapes. Employing child labor here might be wise.

Peeled Concord grapes

Grape guts: peeled Concord grapes

3. Once all of your grape guts are in the sauce pan, add a little bit of water (no more than 1/3 cup) and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Why? Because this is the easiest way to separate the seeds.

Concord grape skins

Concord grape skins

4. In the meantime, your skins should now be collected in the food processor. Add 1/3 cup sugar and process until smooth. Be careful – this is where things have the potential to get REALLY messy. The skins don’t make much of a mess themselves, but once you puree them, the purple will stain anything and everything. (I am the Voice of Experience).

Blending Concord grape skins with sugar

Blending Concord grape skins with sugar

5. Turn the heat off the grape guts (OK fine… pulp… the grape pulp…). Grab your sieve, and position it over a bowl. Pour the grape pulp into the sieve and mash the pulp through the sieve with a potato masher. Your goal here is to remove all of the seeds but get as much pulp through as possible.

Mash the grape guts to separate seeds

Mash the grape guts to separate seeds

6. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with 2 Tbsp instant pectin.

7. Pour the pureed grape skin mixture into the sauce pan with the grape pulp. Add the sugar/pectin mixture. Stir for 3 minutes.

Add the pureed skins to the grape guts

Add the pureed skins to the grape guts

8. Ladle the grape mixture into jam jars. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch of head space at the top of each jar so that there’s room for expansion during freezing. You don’t want grape jam exploding all over your freezer.

9. Let the jars sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

Concord grape jam, 1/2 hour later

10. Refrigerate jars that will be eaten within 3 weeks. Freeze the rest. Done!

The jam will thicken over time, though it’s perfectly spreadable right away.

Concord grape jam, 1 day later

Concord grape jam, 1 day later

While Concord grape jam is a little more labor intensive than other freezer jams due to the peeling and de-seeding process, what I appreciate most (besides the simple, pure deliciousness of unadulterated jam) is that I know exactly what’s in my jam. By that, I mean – I know for a fact there are no chemicals, no genetically modified sweeteners, no junk. My jars of jam contain organic Concord grapes, pectin, and vegan cane sugar. End of story. My jam is cheaper than buying pre-made organic stuff, and tastes so much better!

As a result of making this wonderful jam, I’ve been eating way too many PB&J’s. This picture was taken a few days after making the jam. It’s even thicker now.

Concord grape jam

Concord grape jam

So, there you have it! Epic Concord grape freezer jam in 10 easy steps!

Raspberry Freezer Jam

First Shot at Freezer Jam

Freezer jam, baby!

I’d never heard of freezer jam before Lifehacker mentioned it last week, but now that I’ve been enlightened, I can’t believe I’ve spent my life in the dark! Here’s the article linked from Lifehacker on How to Make No-Cook Freezer Jam.

Since I started the whole organic/whole-foods thing last year, I’ve tried a lot of new things in the kitchen (like, turning on the oven). I’ve always loved the idea of making cute little jars of stuff to give as gifts – jams, nut butters, etc. I’ve had grand intentions to try making some of these things.

This afternoon, when I realized the farmer’s market would be open for a mere 30 minutes more, I jumped in the Jeep and flew over there hoping to restock my fruit supplies. I made it – and one of my favorite dear farmers had some terribly beat up raspberries. “They were just picked this morning, but they didn’t survive the ride up here very well.” (He comes up from central Illinois). No worries, sir! I’ll take some of those raspberries off your hands.

What’s the time….? It’s jam time!

So what the heck is freezer jam? It’s an easy-to-make, no-cook jam that can be stored in the fridge for 2-4 weeks, or in the freezer up to a year. It’s not shelf-stable, so it has to be kept frozen for long-term storage, but hey. That’s no problem! Just don’t ever leave freezer jam out at room temperature. It will spoil.

The basic instructions: get yourself some Ball canning jars (I went with the small 8 oz. ones). The ones with straight sides are least likely to crack in the freezer, though they do make (ugly) plastic freezer-safe ones. I’ll take my chances! Grab a box of instant pectin (Ball also makes this – and I was able to buy both at Walmart). There are several varieties of pectin, but some require cooking/boiling. The instant kind doesn’t require cooking. Get yourself some fruit and your sweetener of choice, and have at it!

There’s an awesome recipe calculator (they call it a “pectin calculator”) on the web site listed on the Ball package – FreshPreserving.com. For most cases, it goes something like this:

  • 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp instant pectin
  • 2/3 cup sugar (or equivalent other sweetener by sweetness, not by volume)

Now, I had a heck of a hard time figuring out how much un-crushed fruit equaled 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit. Plus, I was pureeing my fruit, so I’m sure the 1 2/3 recommendation was too much for pureed fruit. I went with 2 cups un-crushed fruit. Some tips I found: A quart of strawberries makes approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crushed strawberries. 1 pound of fruit without pits equals 2 cups crushed fruit, or 1 1/2 pounds of fruit with pits equals 2 cups crushed fruit.

Here’s the recipe I used:

  • 2 cups un-crushed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp instant pectin
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar

It made two 8-oz jars per recipe. (So, I ended up with 2 jars of raspberry jam and 2 jars of strawberry jam).

Ball Instant Pectin & Agave Nectar

Ball Instant Pectin & Agave Nectar

Mix the agave and pectin in a bowl and stir well. Be sure to dissolve any clumps.

Pectin and agave nectar

Pectin and agave nectar

For round 1, I used raspberries.

Raspberries in the food processor

Raspberries in the food processor

For round 2, I used strawberries.

Strawberries in the food processor

Strawberries in the food processor

Pour 2 cups of fruit into the food processor and process until smooth.

Pureed Raspberries

Pureed Raspberries

Add the pectin/agave mixture to the food processor and whir for 30 seconds or so until everything is well combined.

Pour the mixture into Ball jars. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to firm up.

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Raspberry Freezer Jam

Store in the fridge for 2-4 weeks if you’ll be enjoying your jam immediately, or in the freezer for storage up to a year.

Jar of freezer jam

Jar of freezer jam

I sampled a spoonful of each and I gotta say – it was mighty tasty! Kind of like eating a spoonful of fresh fruit!

Now, I don’t like chunky jams, so that’s why I went the food processor route. You could just as easily crush the fruit with a potato masher and have a more chunky jam. Whatever blows your hair back. I also don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I cut back the sweetener a little bit. Feel free to use more, to taste. I will report back on how well my fruit and sweetener ratios held up when I eat more of this.

This was so easy and fun to make that I feel like I’ll never go through another long, cold winter without the taste of peak-season ripe fruit! So exciting!