Heidi contacted me a few months ago. We met up for lunch, with cocktails of course, and the rest is history. She now photographs our gift boxes and, as a wedding photographer, knows how to capture such perfect moments in food too. I’m so happy to know her, and to have her share her family history with Concord grapes. Please say hello to her in the comments! -Maggie
My grandparents were transplants from Pennsylvania Dutch country and my childhood was filled with all sorts of tradition that revolved around food. I spent much time with them in the days of clotheslines, aprons, vegetable gardens, canning, and Sunday suppers. It was a time when if something was broke, you fixed it and when you needed something, you built it. They had Concord Grapes that grew on their property and when there was a good harvest, the bushel baskets came out of the basement, grape picking ensued, and jelly and juice making followed.
My grandparents are now gone along with the vines, and every early Fall that passes, I regret not finding the grapes again. With determination, I decided that this would be the year. After many futile online searches, I found Autumn Hills Orchard in Grafton Massachusetts — when the grapes were ready, off I went with my Mum for an afternoon of picking on an unusually warm and humid September day. We returned home with over 40lbs of grapes, a Ball canning guide from 1974 from my Mum’s kitchen, and fueled with memories from a time gone by.
After rinsing the grapes in one batch in a large tub in the yard, we rinsed them again in the kitchen sink — sorting the grapes into two bowls – one for jelly and the other for juice. The grapes selected for juice, were ripe but still firm, and not split or blemished. For the jelly, it really didn’t matter so everything smushed-sweet-yummy was set aside whether it was whole or not.
We used the Ball jelly and juice recipes as a guide and made modifications as we went — especially in regard to the sugar. Our grapes were really flavorful and sweet so we cut our sugar by at least half. Also, most of the grapes were so ripe that they crushed in transport so it was difficult to determine “2 quarts” as so many grapes were no longer whole. We estimated the quantity as best we could and determined the ratio of sugar-to-grape, by taste.
We’ve always let our grape juice sit a couple of months before drinking — with the first quart coming out of our basement at Thanksgiving. As a kid, I remember climbing on empty flour buckets to retrieve the juice from the wooden basement shelves — carrying the precious cargo upstairs like treasure. This juice was a mainstay on our table throughout the Fall and Winter holidays — the reminder of all things sweet and simple.
Concord Grape Jelly and Juice
Ingredients:For the Concord Grape Jelly
- 2 quarts stemmed Concord grapes
- 6 cups of sugar
- 1 cup Concord Grapes
- ½ to 1 cup sugar — adjust to sweetness of grapes
- Enough boiling water to top-off each jar
- 1-quart jars — ultimately, we utilized the classic Ball quart jar — the same that my Mum always used. I intended to use the Weck 1 liter juice jars but once in my kitchen, found that the Weck jars did not fit in my water bath. I have since hunted for a pot that would fit the jars but have not had any luck thus far.
Directions:Making the Concord Grape Jelly
- Briskly boil grapes on stove top until whole grapes “pop” under the pressure of a spoon.
- Transfer to a canning sieve and press the pulp.
- Squeeze the remaining pulp through cheese cloth — the grapes were so amazing that we didn’t want to waste a drop, so we added this extra step.
- Add the thick juice to a saucepan and add sugar, cooking slowly until dissolved.
- Rapidly boil until jellying point. We used the “plate test” to determine when the jelly was ready.
- Pour jelly, boiling hot, into prepared canning jars — leaving ½ inch head space per recommendation for Weck jars.
- Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Prepare jars and add 1 cup grapes to each.
- Add your sugar, adjusted to the sweetness of your grapes — I used just a ½ cup.
- Top with boiling water, leaving ¼ inch head space.
- Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- After completely cooled, transfer to cool dark space.
- Store for 2+ months and strain into a chilled pitcher when ready to enjoy.
Eat Boutique is an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista–shop girl, writer, author, and creative business coach. After hosting pop-up markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie is working to open her first permanent Eat Boutique–a food-retail concept space with a new way to the very best food–as well as coaching women in food to reach life and business goals. Her second cookbook, A New Way to Food: 100 Recipes to Encourage a Healthy Relationship with Food, Nourish Your Beautiful Body, and Celebrate Real Wellness for Life, will be published by Roost Books on February 5, 2019.