While I prefer strawberry jelly, I couldn’t stop thinking about making concord grape jelly. The recipes I had seen made it look simple enough: grapes, sugar and lemon juice + heat = jelly. But in my kitchen, not everything goes according to plan.
After reading several different recipes, I decided that I was prepared enough to handle things without any notes. I began by taking the skins off a few grapes and popping out some seeds with my fingers. This quickly became too troublesome, especially since some of the grapes contained 2-3 seeds, so I broke out the food mill. This seemed to break up the seeds rather quickly, which wouldn’t help me any. (A quick search by the husband revealed that cooking the mixture first may help if you choose this route.) I decided to place the grapes in a blender and let it go for several long seconds until most of the seeds were broken up. And then it hit me: what if the seeds were now small enough to escape through the strainer? A couple of spoon tests through the puree revealed that the seeds had indeed broken down into rather small fragments.
Since I don’t have a fine mesh sieve, I used my sifter. I’ve done this on several occasions and it seems to work just fine, which is great because I’m quickly running out of space in my kitchen. Due to the size of my sifter, I decided to strain my grapes in two different batches. Using a rubber spatula, I carefully stirred the mixture around. After several minutes, I decided being gentle wasn’t especially important. Just in case some of the seeds happened to escape, I decided to strain the grapes a second time just to be safe.
Since this was my second time making jam/jelly, and the first time my batch ended up too thin, I decided to let my batch cook down a bit more and use a chilled plate to test it. In my head, I got things a bit confused. I thought I was watching for it to ripple as I pushed my finger into it. Really, all I wanted was for it to not run if I tilted the plate. So, while my first batch of jelly was too thin, my batch of grape jelly turned out way too thick, like cold caramel sauce. (Hmm, I wonder how grape jelly would taste on vanilla ice cream?) Still yummy, and still completely usable, but probably overcooked by about 10 minutes. Oh well, maybe the third time will be the charm!
This recipe is super simple, even with the straining of the grapes. The hardest part is waiting for the mixture to thicken up. And don’t be tempted to taste the jelly while it’s still hot! Hot jelly is like scalding candy – it will burn you and thicken at the same time. Mind you, this didn’t stop me from tasting a big spoonful after only a couple of minutes off the heat, and it was well worth it (warm jelly is divine – who knew?!) but I would highly recommend waiting until it has cooled considerably.
Concord Grape Jelly
2 pounds concord grapes
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Chill a plate in the freezer – this will be used to test the jelly.
2. Wash the grapes. Place washed grapes in blender and blend for a few seconds. Don’t blend them too long or the seeds will break up enough to slip through your strainer.
3. Using a sieve or other fine mesh strainer (I used my sifter), strain jelly into a bowl, discarding all of the seeds and solids.
4. Place strained grapes in a heavy pot. Add the sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the jelly from scorching. Boil for about 20 minutes depending on the amount of grapes used.
5. Once mixture has thickened, remove from heat and drop a teaspoonful onto the chilled plate. Wait 1 minute and then tilt the plate. If the jelly remains in a mound and does not run, it is done. If the jelly runs, place your plate back in the freezer and continue cooking at a slow boil. Test the jelly every 5 minutes for up to 25 minutes.