Four years ago while visiting the Santa Ynez Valley we stumbled upon an up and coming young winemaker, Matt McKinney. We went to his property where we enjoyed tasting his wines and learned his story and a lot about the wine making process. He had just planted rows and rows of vines and he kindly pulled two baby plants out of the ground and gave them to me to take home and plant in my yard. We were curious to see how differently they would grow from the valley there and my property on the coast. After 4 growing seasons we really had beautiful clusters of grapes this year! The grapes were incredibly sweet and delicious. I had 21 clusters ready and had to figure out a way to use them because it was too many for eating, plus I find eating grapes with seeds can be too much work. Over the years we have become spoiled with seedless grapes. I decided to make Grenache Grape Jam! How hard could it be???
I scoured the internet for recipes and discovered most grape jams and jellies are made with Concord grapes which are lower in sugar and higher in acid so I had to make sure to get the ratio of sugar to fruit right so it would set once canned. Next it was time to sort through all 21 clusters (there are so many grapes on some of these clusters!). I had to remove any bruised or split grapes. I yielded 12lbs of grapes ready to be thoroughly rinsed over and over again. The recipe would use 5lbs of grapes so I had to do this twice.
Some recipes called for par cooking whole grapes and then using a food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Others suggested peeling off the skins (yes that's right off each individual grape), par cooking the pulp with seeds then running that through a food mill to remove the seeds and then adding the peeled skins back to the seedfree pulp. Finding the idea of peeling 12 lbs of grapes daunting, I chose to peel some skins to add back to the jam for texture and possible nutrients and food mill the rest.
Next I put my 5lbs of some skinned and some whole grapes in a pot and mashed them up. The pulp is very clear, it reminds me of fresh aloe vera, I was curious to see if the jam would be more clear or if it would somehow turn out purple. I simmered this for about 10 minutes, long enough to soften the rest of the skins.
This next part actually took me much longer than I anticipated. I cranked and cranked, scraped and cranked more until I was satisfied that I squeezed out all of the pulp.
Now it was time to get my jars and lids ready. I filled my large pressure cooker pot, that's what I use to can in mostly because it's the largest pot I have, filled it with water to boil. I washed then sterilized my jars in the boiling water then kept them in a warming drawer until they were ready to be filled.
Because these grapes already had a naturally high sugar content I wanted to use the least amount of sugar necessary to process and I used a small amount of low sugar pectin to ensure that it would set properly. You can see the reflection of me taking a photo in cooking jam. You can see skins scattered about, I was so happy it was full of purple pigment full of antioxidants. The color is exactly what I would call grape.
I was thrilled, it set up pretty quickly and just as I had hoped - Flavor, fantastic! I filled my first 8 jars and processed them in a water bath. Then I did it all again for my second batch.
21 clusters = 12 lbs = ultimately 17 half pint jars.