Urban Preserving: Concord Grape Jam

October 9, 2014

concord grapes

Two or three times a year, I pack up a big box of jam and mail it off to my sister and her family in Austin, TX. While Raina knows the fundamentals of jam making (and I know she has at least two cookbooks that could show her how), my mom and I easily (and happily) meet the bulk of her fruit spread needs.

grapes in a pan

In the last shipment, one of the jars I sent was a squat little half pint of concord grape jam. I’d made it as a test batch sometime last fall and hadn’t thought much about it beyond assuming that my nephew might dig it. When Raina reported back on the winners, the thing she raved about most was the grape jam. They ate through it in record time and were all a little sad to hear that there wasn’t even a drop more.

simmered grapes

So when concord grapes came into season this fall, I made a point to pick some up to make another batch of jam for Raina and her crew. I started with 2 pounds of concord grapes. I gave them a quick rinse, and popped them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. I set the pan on the stove and brought it to a simmer. I let it go for a few minutes, just until the grapes popped.

Once the grapes where soft, I poured them into a food mill that I’d fitted with the finest screen and milled them through. This is the step that makes this preserve more of a jam than a jelly. It’s not going to have a ton of texture from the skin, but some gets through and gives the finished product a little more body.

grapes in a food mill

Once I couldn’t mill any more, I measured out the pulp. In my case, I had a little more than 3 1/2 cups, but your results will vary. I poured the pulp into a low, wide pan and added 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (roughly half the volume of pulp) and the juice of half a lemon. Then I cooked it until it was thick (times vary, use your judgment).

Once the jam was done, I funneled it into two half pint jars (there was a little leftover for the fridge) and processed them in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes. They sealed perfectly and will be in my checked luggage when I head for Austin later this month to meet my new nephew (!!!). He was born at 7:59 this morning and everyone is well.


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43 thoughts on "Urban Preserving: Concord Grape Jam"

  • Congrats! And thanks for the recipe. I have a huge vine of Concord grapes and i never know what to do with all of them. I made a grape pie but the jam would be more useful.

  • Most of my family members love grape jam so thank you for sharing the recipe.
    O don’t have a food mill so you think I could just use a potato masher or blender/food processor to mash / puree the grapes up a bit?

    1. You really need to mill or sieve them in some way, because concord grapes have really tough seeds that need to be removed in some way.

        1. Colleen, you could probably also press it through a fine mesh sifter as an alternative to a food mill. I’ve done it to remove blackberry seeds before. I usually put a little at a time into the sifter, then press on it with a spoon or spatula, and keep adding more fruit as the level lowers. It’s definitely a bit time consuming, especially relative to a food mill, but it would probably do the trick nicely.

    2. Alternatively, you can slip the grapes from their skins, cook the pulp until it liquifies, strain out the seeds, and then add the skins back in. I set a bowl of washed grapes, an empty bowl, and a saucepan for the pulp in front of myself in front of the TV, and and then pinch each of the grapes to pop the pulp into the saucepan and drop the skin into the empty bowl. It takes about 45-60 minutes to get through 2 pounds of grapes (hence the TV), but is pleasant in a meditative sort of way. Sometimes I just mix the skins into the deseeded pulp, but usually I give it a whirl with my immersion blender before adding the sugar and lemon juice (and sometimes a little Pomona’s pectin).

  • I got muscadines in my produce box yesterday — so excited! If I can get my hands on some more, I’d love to make a micro batch of preserves/jam. Have you ever worked with them? My Ball book treats them like Concord, so it looks like we are safe acidity-wise.

    My grandma used to can them, more of a preserve than a jam. I don’t remember the pesky seeds, but I do remember the skins, so I doubt she used a food mill. Guess I’m picking the seeds out by hand lol lol ?!

  • Congrats on the new nephew!

    It doesn’t look like you’re using pectin. What about the few ingredients you are using causes the jam to gel?

    How often can you skip the pectin and get the right consistency?

  • Congratulations to Raina and all of your family!

    Made my first batches of Concord grape jam last yeat. There’s this arbor, which i insisted my son build for the 2 vines i bought 9 years ago, right outside my kitchen door. I bought Concords because i missed that East Coast taste of childhood.

    Didn’t use any pectin, and by the 4th batch, i wasn’t using sugar either. My sons and i — but not my granddaughters — felt it was sweet enough without sugar, agave, or honey. Somewhere i saw that the glop has to be at least 212F for it to set without pectin. I pushed it further because i didn’t want to open a jar of soup but i wanted jam, NOT jelly.

    Supposedly, West Coast Concords don’t have as much pectin as the East Coast brand. Haven’t investigated that enough to know if it’s true. This year, i plan to add a grated apple to each batch just to be on the safe side.

    @Marissa, Many, many thanks for the info on the pH meter. I’ve ordered the middle one from Thermoworks.com because my MiL and some of my son’s co-workers want a couple of jars. If it leaves my house, i want to be very safe!

  • I just got my hands on 18 lbs of concord grapes and was going to look through your recipe index for inspiration when I saw this post. WOOHOO! I have cleared my calendar for the weekend šŸ™‚ Thank you and congrats to your family on the wee one.

  • Congratulations! And perfect timing on the jam, I set aside a bunch of damson plum jam (actually I ran out of jars) that I was going to add to some concord grapes this weekend since I finally got a food mill. Good to know the grapes have a lot of pectin already!

  • I’m so jealous of all of you. There are just some fruit we don’t get here in central California. Anyone want to send me a jar?

  • Congrats on the new nephew! And thanks for the idea to food mill the grapes – I grew up with a Concord vine in the backyard (in Portland, OR) and always loved the difference in taste and texture between the skin and the flesh. Nice to see that you can treat the grapes more like a jam than a jelly šŸ™‚

  • Congrats on nephew number two!

    I would love to make some grape jam for my brother who ONLY eats grape jelly and won’t even try one of my delicious alternatives. I don’t have a food mill, though. In the past I have pushed blackberries through a cone shaped sieve… maybe that would work?

    Have fun in Austin!

  • Congrats on the new family member! And a question – I made grape jam about a week ago and attempted to use my food mill on the finest screen. But bits of seeds started breaking off well before all the pulp was pushed through. Did I overload it? Or any other tips? (I ended up forcing it through a jelly bag which worked but took a while and left my hands impressively purple.)

  • YUM! I just love grape jam. I just recently made a gob of plum jam from small, red plums my dad gave me. I pitted every single one of them — a trash bag full! It was so worth it. Congrats on the new baby-love.

  • Congrats on the new nephew! I was wondering if it’s possible to reduce the sugar in this jam any further (concord grapes already taste super sweet to me), or if that would lead to a poor set.

    1. It’s going to lead to a fairly poor set if you reduce the sugar too much. You can try pulling out maybe 1/4 cup, but I wouldn’t go much lower than that.

  • We don’t grow concords here but my Dad has a Thomcord hybrid vine that bears well. I get all the grapes that aren’t eaten. Last year I made jelly. This year they weren’t interested so I made juice that I mix with plain seltzer water to make my own grape soda.

  • I have a Nutriblender, so I thought to de-seed them, then pop them in that, and the fruit and the skins would be blended, and make the jam from that…what do you think.

    1. The only concern I have there is that the skins can sometimes be bitter and tannic tasting. So it might shift the flavor of the finished jam.

  • I was just given 5 gallons of grapes. Would it hurt if I cooked them, strained them, and refrigerated them til next week when I have time to finish them?

    1. No, that should be fine. The boiling process will kill off any present bacteria and will prevent the finished juice from beginning to ferment.

  • I like to freeze the jam. My son wants to learn how. I just cook to soften before putting through a food mill. Do all you recommend but put them in the pint size plastic containers and put them in the freezer. Really works great.

  • Thank you for this post – so awesome and easy to follow! I’ve never made jam or jelly before, but since my neighbor gifted me with grapes from her vines, in exchange for helping pick them I figured it was high time I try! After much reading, I decided to take mine up past 225 degrees, and I came out with three half-pints of nice, thick, spreadable jam.

  • I am about to make this recipe for the first time (first time making jam of any kind) and am wondering if I plan to use it immediately and will store it in the fridge, do I need to go through the canning procedures? As long as the jars are sterile before I pour the hot jam into them, of course. Your thoughts? Many thanks, Fran

    1. You do not have to can jam if you plan on eating it in the near future. You can do just as you suggested. Pour the finished jar into clean jars, cap, let cool, and then refrigerate.