In 1869, Dr. Thomas Welch, a dentist from New Jersey, gathered 40 pounds of Concord grapes with his wife and son from his front yard, made juice and bottled it using Louis Pasteur’s method of pasteurization. The first bottled juice was used for communion in churches. This was the beginning of the Welch legacy. Years later, the Welch family produced grape jam. It was sold to the US Army and dispersed in the rations in World War I as Grapelade. Once the war was over and the soldiers returned, they wanted more grape jam and the jam was offered to the public in 1923.
I’ve made quite a bit grape jelly over the years. I even went so far as to make it for all the guests at our wedding! This year I wanted to try something new with grapes and settled on jam. I loved how it turned out. This will make it to my recipe box as a ‘keeper’!
I used Concord grapes for this jam. Concord grapes were developed in 1849 by Ephraim Wales Bull. He originally planted 20,000 grape seedlings, attempting to develop a grape that would mature quickly and tolerate the cold. Eventually, the Concord grape met that criteria and the seeds of those original plants were transported around the country.
Concord grapes have a very strong grape flavor and deep purple color. When selecting grapes in our area, we need to choose varieties that can withstand the Wisconsin winters. We chose Concords and our grape vines are on the southwest side of our house, planted next to a concrete retaining wall. This location gives them nice sunlight and warm temperatures and lengthens the growing season. There are other cold-hardy varieties such as Frontenac, Marquette, La Crescent, St Croix, Catawba, Ventura, etc. that also grow well in our area. Grapes also grow wild in our area, typically along riverbanks but care should be taken when foraging as some varieties can be poisonous.
Concords typically ripen in early October (they have a 155-160 day growing season). I picked a little later than planned this year. This was both good and bad. Bad because some of the berries were being devoured by hornets and other insects and some were dried up; but good because waiting until after the first frost increased their natural sugar content. The berries were less acidic, resulting in a mellow, smooth flavor.
I ended up with ten pounds of grapes after picking each one off the vine and tossed the grapes that were dried out.
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- 10 lb Concord grapes, stemmed
- 7 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 10 (1/2-pt) canning jars with lids and screw bands;
- a boiling-water canner or an 8- to 10-qt deep pot;
- a food mill
Wash jars, lids, and screw bands in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Dry screw bands. Put jars on a rack in canner or deep pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil for 10 minutes. Shut off heat, leaving jars in water. Heat lids in water to cover by 2 inches in a small saucepan (do not let boil). Remove from heat, leaving lids in water. Keep the jars and lids submerged in hot water, covered, until ready to use.
Chill 2 small plates (for testing jam).
Slip skins from ¾ of the grapes and place in a separate container from the grapes. Chop skins in a food processor (do not puree), then transfer to a 4- to 6-quart wide heavy pot, add ½ cup water and simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, place grapes in a large stockpot and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes until the pulp is broken down. Place grapes in a food mill and grind to separate the grapes from the seeds over a large bowl. Discard the seeds or save for planting. Return the grapes to the large stock pot, add the grapes skins, stir in lemon juice, butter, and sugar. Cook at a slow boil, stirring continuously as mixture thickens to prevent scorching. At 35 minutes, test for doneness.
To test jam, remove from heat, then drop a teaspoonful on a chilled plate and chill 1 minute. Tilt plate: Jam should remain in a mound and not run. If jam runs, continue cooking at a slow boil, testing every 5 minutes, until done, up to 25 minutes more.
Seal, process, and store jars:
Lift a single jar from the hot water and drain. Place funnel in jar. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top. Wipe off rims of filled jars with a clean damp kitchen towel, then top with lids and firmly screw on screw bands. Put sealed jars on rack in canner or pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. With jar lifter, transfer jars to a cookie rack to cool.
Jars will seal; you should hear a ping, it signals that the air has been removed from the jar and a vacuum has made lid concave. This may occur immediately when you remove them from the canner or it may take several hours. As your preserves cool, they will thicken.
After jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, press center of each lid to check that it’s concave, then remove screw band. Put any jars that haven’t sealed properly in the refrigerator and use them first.
Wash the bands and top of jars with hot soapy water. Rinse bands well and place on or next to a low-temperature burner to dry thoroughly before storing. You do not need to replace the bands on the jars.
Be sure to label and date your jars and Enjoy!
*Adapted from Nerds With Knives* For more recipes like this, check us out at http://www.hogcreekhomestead.com
Concord Grape Association: History, http://www.concordgrape.org/bodyhistory.html.
“Concord Grape Jelly.” Nerds with Knives, 3 Nov. 2016, http://www.nerdswithknives.com/concord-grape-jelly/#easyrecipe-8316-0.
Shrubs of Wisconsin: Vitis Riparia, Frost Grape, http://www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/herbarium/shrubs/vitrip01.htm.
Growing Grapes in Wisconsin
Midwest Grape Production Guide