Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly

October 11, 2016(updated on September 16, 2023)

Homemade, low sugar Concord grape jelly is a fun one to have in the pantry and makes the most delicious nut butter sandwich imaginable!

Concord grapes for Concord grape jelly

I was certain that I was going to miss the Concord grape season this year. I spent most of September away from Philadelphia and while I did plenty of canning while out in Portland, I didn’t manage to get any grapes.

Concord grapes in a colander for Concord grape jelly

Now, it’s easy enough to get good quality Concord grape juice any time of year for jelly making (and I tell you how to do exactly that in my first cookbook). But I do so like to make it straight from the grapes when I can, because there’s nothing like the fragrance and flavor of fresh Concord grapes.

simmered Concord grapes for Concord grape jelly

A couple weekends ago, I spent the morning demonstrating how to make honey-sweetened jam at the Antietam Valley Farmers Market. When I was done with my demo, I made a quick circuit to pick up a few things for the week and one of the vendors had three quarts of Concord grapes left. They all came home with me.

Concord grape pulp in a food mill for Concord grape jelly

This preserve is halfway between a jelly and a jam. Instead of simply extracting the juice from the grapes, I simmer them and then push them through a food mill, so that I can get as much pulp as possible into my finished product. Doing it this way gets a bit of the pulp into the juice. The resulting jelly won’t have a perfect, translucence glow of batches made with pure juice, but it will mean that you get every drop of flavor and utility out of your grape. I also find that batches made like this set up a little more quickly thanks to that bit of pulp.

Concord grape jelly in Lock Eat jars

This is a lower sugar grape jelly that you often find (I used a ratio of 4 parts juice to 1 part sugar). I’ve got a similar preserve in my third book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, that is sweetened with maple sugar, if you want to avoid the refined stuff entirely. Because there’s so little sugar in it (relatively speaking), I used Pomona’s Pectin to ensure that it set up well. If you want to make a batch of grape jelly set entirely with the natural pectin in the grapes, you will need to use a higher sugar recipe.

Sugar changes consistency when boiled and so in higher sugar recipes, that change is enough to bond with the natural pectin and create a set. In this case, I opted for a lower sugar preserve, knowing that I would have to employ a low sugar pectin to ensure I’d get jelly and not syrup.

One thing to remember whenever you work with grapes is this. Concord grapes stain like crazy, so wear dark colors or your least favorite apron when making this. And if you have marble countertops, take care!

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Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly

Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 5 half pints


  • 4 pounds Concord grapes
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon calcium water, the calcium powder used to make calcium water comes in the box of Pomona's Pectin
  • 1 tablespoon Pomona’s Pectin


  • Wash the grapes and pluck them off their stems. Put them in a pot with a tight-fitting lid and add two cups of water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Once the grapes are soft, remove them from the heat. Let them cool.
  • Fit a food mill with its finest screen and set it over a bowl. Pour the cooked grapes into the food mill and work them through.
  • Measure out eight cups of the grape juice and pulp pour it into a preserving pan. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the calcium water.
  • Prepare a boiling water bath canner and five half pint jars.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by about 1/4. Whisk the pectin into the reserved sugar and add it to the boiling pot in stages, stirring between each addition so that the pectin doesn’t clump.
  • The jelly is done when it sheets thickly off the back of a spatula and forms thick layers on the walls of the pot.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and funnel the jelly into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  • When the time is up, remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortable handle them, check the seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

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36 thoughts on "Low Sugar Concord Grape Jelly"

  • I love grape jelly. I did make it a few years ago when my Dad had a big crop of Thomcord grapes. It’s a cross between Thompson seedless and Concord that we have here in California. My Dad got a vine from somewhere and planted it and it’s been the most successful producer of all of the grapes he planted. It’s not quite as strong in flavor as a straight Concord but close enough. He had way more grapes than we all could eat so I harvested a laundry basket full and made two batches. I used a food mill and I did strain the juice but it still isn’t quite jelly. But good enough for us.

    I’ve got three bags from this year in the freezer waiting for the weather to cool before I process them. And I found a source for Pomona’s pectin so I’ll be trying that too.

    Love to see you used those jars from the giveaway.

  • Looks delicious. I don’t have calcium water or the Pomona’s pectin. Can I substitute MCP regular pectin? Thanks for all the wonderful recipes.

    1. Unfortunately, you can’t make that substitution. This is a low sugar recipe and needs a low sugar pectin like Pomona’s. It’s not going to set up with something else.

      1. You can order the Pomona’s pectin online in Canada. It ships from Vancouver Island and the shipping is free. I think it is available on Amazon.ca as well.

  • When you say “pour the grapes”, I’m assuming you’re including the 2 cups of water you added? That would basically be what is reduced off. Also, the photo shows you didn’t stem all the grapes perfectly. That’s the part I hate about processing grapes and was wondering if doing a so-so job was acceptable since the food mill will catch stragglers.

    1. I mean the grapes and all the liquid, including the water. And I didn’t do a perfect job of stemming the grapes before I simmered them and then had to do the messy job of removing the stems once they were cooked. My fingers are still purple. It’s better to stem them before cooking.

  • Thank you for this recipe, Marisa. Stewart is the biggest Concord grape fan I know; he eats several whole bags full at this time of year. I really should make him some jam!

  • shouldn’t need the pectin at all if you cook the grapes long enough. I follow my MiL’s grape butter recipe (which uses more sugar) and never had to add any.

    1. The reason you need the pectin is because of the reduced amount of sugar. When you reduce sugar, you can’t get the necessary temperature elevation needed for set.

  • It was lovely to have you as our guest at the Antietam Farmers’ Market. The community, shoppers and even our vendors, enjoyed your demonstration and sampling your jam. We are all looking forward to making recipes from your cookbooks!

  • I just opened up a jar of my homemade Concord Grape Jelly made late summer and notice a thin top layer of what looks like dark colored residue that settled at the top after processing. The rest of jelly looks fine. I added a some pureed skin from grapes to the batch before processing which may have created this darker colored residue (scum). The seal appears fine and very tight. I examined the rest of unopened jars and all have the same residue at top. Not very attractive and just wondered if this some times happens. Thank you for any imput or advice!

      1. This happened when I used Pomona’s Pectin for strawberry jam. The jam was fine, just not the prettiest jam.

    1. You could strain the fruit in a jelly bag instead of in a food mill. You would do everything else the same.

  • We have loads of wild (and cultivated) muscadine grapes that grow in our yard. Could I substitute those for Concord grapes without disrupting any acidity balance?

    Thanks!! Excited to put all these grapes to good use.

    1. I’ve never tried it, but it should be fine. There are a number of muscadine jelly recipes out there, which leads me to believe that they have similar pH levels to concord grapes.

    1. Concord grapes are high in acid and so don’t need lemon juice for safety. It is find to add some if you feel like the flavor needs balancing, though.

  • Hi, I want to make this recipe. I made your strawberry rhurbarb recipe and thought it had the perfect consistency with the lower amount of pomonas. One thing I don’t like about pomonas is that the set is too hard, like jello. I’m wondering if you’re purposely reducing the amount of pomonas in general to avoid that, and if you’ve done that in this recipe as well. It looks like you have a tsp. less of both the pectin and the calcium water versus the pomonas instructions.

    second question: I see you omit the lime/lemon juice. Can you help me understand why you did that so I can figure out if I need it? And if it might be related to the amount of pectin you used?

    third question, I don’t have concord, I have a tasty sweet grape from my neighbors (It might be candace?) that I’ve steam out 12 cups of juice in my steam juicer. Would you change your recipe for a different kind of grape?

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Courtney! I do intentionally use less Pomona’s Pectin than their recipes indicate because I also dislike a super firm set jam. I find that by reducing the amount of pectin and calcium water, I can get to a texture I like better.

      Lemon/lime juice are used for two reasons in canning. One is to adjust the acidity to make a recipe safe for boiling water bath canning. The second is to balance the flavor. Grapes have enough acid on their own to be safe for canning. And since it’s a low sugar recipe, I didn’t find that any lemon juice was necessary to add for balance.

    1. It makes five half pints. And because this recipe uses Pomona’s Pectin to achieve the set, you could double the recipe without issue. I wouldn’t increase the batch size by any more than that.

  • Is it 4 lbs of grapes once you have taken them off the stems? Or does it not need to be that precise (since the stems probably don’t comprise much of the total weight)?

  • To clarify my previous comment, I was referring to the stalks rather than the little stems! Another question: Should the lid be on or off during the 20 minute simmer? Just wondering how much water should evaporate.

    1. As you can see from my pictures, I wasn’t super precise in removing the stems and stalks. Their weight is fairly inconsequential, so I wouldn’t worry about them. The lid should definitely be on during the simmer, though. You don’t want to lose any precious liquid.