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