I hope you are all doing all right during the COVID-19 lockdown. Many of you are spending your time trying out new culinary delights, so I thought I’d throw this one into the mix.
I happened to get a container of beautiful fresh currants in a recent Misfits Market box and decided to do the simplest (and most practical) thing with it: jam.
Fresh currants are somewhat hard to find (at least in my part of the world), so this is a (really) small batch recipe. This will essentially give you enough jam for about 4 pieces of toast (or 2, if you like to slather it on).
Red Currant Jam
6 oz. red currants ¼ c + 3 tablespoons sugar
Wash the currants well by placing them in a bowl of water and adding a little vegetable wash or dish soap. Rinse them well in a mesh strainer (especially if you use dish soap).
Remove the stems and discard them. If you’re going to use the traditional canning method, prepare a small jar.
Place the currants in a small nonreactive (non-aluminum) pot and crush them lightly with a fork or potato masher.Add the sugar and 2 teaspoons water and stir. Bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon without dripping, about 10 to 15 minutes.Spoon the jam into a clean jar and seal it. If you’ve sealed it using the canning method, the jam will keep sealed up to a year. Otherwise, refrigerate up to 3 weeks.
Once again, I was the beneficiary of unwanted CSA produce. This time it was Concord grapes. My friends didn’t want them because they are too seedy.
I do understand what they mean—the seeds inside a Concord grape take up half the volume of the entire grape, and as delicious as that little burst of Concord flesh is, it’s a very small burst for all the spitting of seeds that follows. Plus, the skin is tart.
I know this because I once had Concord grapes growing in my yard. But the vines never yielded enough for me to do much with them except have a little snack. The birds got to a lot of them before I did, too.
Anyway, I am the recipient of unwanted foodstuffs because my friends know that I will put them to use somehow. In this case, I chose to make grape jam.
I’ve made fruit preserves before, and homemade cranberry sauce has become one of my personal Thanksgiving traditions, but I’d never made grape jam before. Turns out, it’s incredibly simple. You don’t even have to remove the seeds. You just have to remove the skins. Granted, this is a bit time consuming, but it is not at all difficult. Unlike other grape varieties, Concord grapes pop out of their skins very easily. One gentle little squeeze, and out they come. But a little patience is required to do them all. I suggest wearing latex gloves when you do this, or you might end up looking like the purple people-eater.
The rule of thumb for sugar is 1 cup per 1 pound of grapes. I had about 1 ½ pounds of grapes, so I used that many cups of sugar. The result, if I do say so myself, was delicious. The jam was sweet but not cloying (which I hate) and fresh tasting (unlike many jellies, which taste “chemically” from the preservatives).
Because my batch was rather small, I decided not to jar it with the standard canning method. I just put them in 2 little jars and, because of the sugar, they will last in the refrigerator for several weeks. However, if you’re going to make more than I made, or want to make it for long-term storage, you can find instructions for canning here:
You can add flavorings to it, like vanilla or lavender, or create any combination of flavors that you like. Enjoy this on muffins and toast, in yogurt and oatmeal, or in a classic PB&J.
Concord Grape Jam
1 ½ pounds Concord grapes
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Wash and drain the grapes. Pop them out of their skins.
Place the skins in the bowl of a food processor. Add ½ cup sugar to the skins. Process until pureed.
Place the pulp in a medium saucepan along with remaining 1 cup sugar and lemon juice. Add the skin puree and mix. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Skim foam from top, as needed.
Set a mesh strainer over a bowl. Press the jam through strainer; return the contents of the bowl to the pot, and discard solids. Return to a boil; lower heat again and continue simmering, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes. The jam will still be loose but will gel as it cools down.
Place in clean jars with tight-fitting lids. For long-term storage, use a standard canning process.