This is a grown up grape jelly—not cloyingly sweet, gem toned, mildly tart, and the texture of velvet on the tongue. It is one of the simplest recipes in the world, yet complex it its depth of flavor. Intensely aromatic, the Concord grape dates back to the mid 19th century where among his neighbors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorn, and the Alcott family, a farmer began experimenting with grape seeds from some native species in search of the perfect grape. This horticulture endeavor lead Ephraim Wales Bull to plant more than 22,000 seedlings before he was satisfied that he had cultivated a full-bodied grape that would thrive in rugged New England soil, ripen early, and survive the frosts that killed European cuttings. While Mr. Bull developed the standard for grape taste, it is the dentist, Mr. Welch, that commercialized and profited from this native vine. He sold most of his first presses of the grape to churches to use during the sacrament, but soon decided to employ Louis Pasteur’s pasteurization methods to stop fermentation and deliver a safe, mass marketed non-alcoholic juice to the market.Wildly popular, Mr Welch continued with his kitchen science experiments and in 1918 produced World War I jam rations for American soldiers. It was, however, during World War II that one of the classic and most beloved of all childhood lunches came to be—the PB&J was invented as a means of providing troops with more nutrition in the form of inexpensive nut protein. Dr. Welch’s Concord jam became the standard by which all peanut butter and jelly combinations are measured even today. Try this less sweet, no additive homemade jelly on baked brie, grilled cheese made with cheddar or fontina, pork and duck plates, PB & J’s, or vanilla ice cream. Only in season for a few weeks each fall, relish the opportunity to make your own preserves. Do preserve enough of this quintessential New England autumn harvest with friends and family.
- Remove the grapes from their stems and wash.
- Put the grapes in a 3 QUART SAUCEPAN with 1/4 cup (59 mL) cold water. Bring the grapes to a boil, and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Most of the grapes will have begun to seep their juices into the pot by 10 minutes, but if not, continue cooking until you have a liquid slurry and grape mash. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool.
- Use a mesh sieve to strain the grape juice into a bowl. Fold a damp piece of cheesecloth in half, put the berry mash from the sieve into the center and place over the bowl to strain the rest of the juice until you have 2 cups. The cheesecloth step may takes about 30 minutes. Compost the remaining grape mash.
- Place the juice and sugar into a 2 QUART SAUCEPAN. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the juice begins to thicken.
- Remove the jelly from the heat and then place into a glass jar. Cool to room temperature and then place the jar in the refrigerator. The jelly will continue to thicken as it cools.
- The jelly may be refrigerated for two weeks in a tightly sealed glass jar.
If you would like to make pancake syrup, simply cut the cooking time in half (or reserve half of the liquid in step 4 after 15 minutes). Only Concord grapes have the depth of flavor needed to make extraordinary grape jelly.