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December 15, 2009

microwave tangerine marmalade


microwave tangerine marmalade

Tangerines and sugar, that's all it takes, add a food processor and a microwave and you have (almost) instant marmalade!


Beginners, if you are intimidated by marmalade this is a great recipe to try. Don’t get me wrong, I adore marmalade, but it is a lot of work. Just thinking about it, all the slicing, peeling and pith removal makes me tired. This time of year we all need a little extra time.
By utilizing the food processor and the microwave, start to finish, you can bang this out in thirty minutes, even faster if you use seedless tangerines and resist the urge to multi-task.
Not as complex or refined as a traditional marmalade, it is fantastic nonetheless, and a great addition to every jammers repertoire. Some might consider it cheaters marmalade, but given the work/outcome ratio it’s a winner in my book.
If you have a few extra tangerines lying around you can whip this up fast and seem like a star.

YEILD: 1pint

NOTES:

  • Use the most flavorful tangerines you can find.
  • Do not double the recipe, the microwave will not like it and you will end up with a giant mess.
  • Use a high-sided microwaveable container as the jam bubbles up. I like to use my 2-quart glass mixer bowl, which I can pour directly into the jars from.
  • After you get the basic technique down feel free to play a bit adding a touch of booze or spices.

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¾ lb tangerines, (Satsuma, Clementine or Dancy)
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1-tablespoon rum (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

METHOD:

Start your hot water bath and prepare your jars and lids.

Peel and seed tangerines (or get seedless) removing and discarding all the white stringy bits from the outside and down the center of the fruit.



Place peel, pulp and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Puree, making sure that all the peel and section skins are reduced to a pulp. It will be quite liquidly.



Pour into a high-sided microwaveable bowl adding rum and nutmeg. Cover tightly with saran wrap that you have pierced a few times to vent.

Microwave on high for 5 minutes.  Stir; remove saran wrap and return to microwave for 7 minutes.  Remove, stir and check thickness. At this point, depending on the juiciness of your fruit you may want to return it to the microwave for another 2-3 minutes. It continues thickening as it cools.


Stir again and pour or ladle marmalade into your prepared jars, leaving 1/2-inch headroom and removing any air bubbles. Wipe rims and place lids on screwing on lightly.

Place jars in canner making sure the jars are submerged. Return to a boil and process 5 minutes (timed from the boil) for 4oz jars and 10 minutes for 8oz jars. Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before carefully removing jars. Place jars on towels or a cutting board to cool. Label and enjoy. 


December 10, 2009

CANNED ASIAN PEARS


CANNED ASIAN PEARS

They say February is the longest month, but for me, it was November. My sincerest apologies for not posting in so long, but the last six weeks have been craaaazy. I will do my best to make up for it in the coming weeks. 
I have much to report on including a fantastic canning event I did at MEND (Meet Every Need with Dignity) with talented fellow canner Kevin West from Saving the Season, and the fabulous folks from Food Forward, but more on that later.
Below is my recipe for Thai Flavored Canned Asian Pears. Kevin sampled them at the MEND event and convinced me that it was post-worthy. Sometimes we need to borrow others taste buds, our own being confused or overwhelmed. Both Kevin and my daughter Isabel said it reminded them of lychee.
My desire for a crisp canned pear led me to develop this recipe. Asian pears don’t have a ton of flavor, but what they lack in taste they make up for in texture. I can’t think of another fruit that is simultaneously crisp and juicy. They retain that quality when canned and their delicate taste makes them the perfect foil for any number of flavors you want to impose on them. The thai trio of lemon grass, ginger and lime are a perfectly complement the pears.
The technique is the same as basic canned pears; peel and core, cook briefly in a simple syrup and can. Asian pears do not have sufficient acid so they require the addition of citric acid or bottled lemon juice to the jars before canning.
This makes a lovely light dessert served with sorbet or on its own. It’s a simple recipe with a big WOW factor.


CANNED ASIAN PEARS




YEILD:
4 quarts
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1-gallon cool water
  • 1-teaspoon citric acid or lemon juice (for water to prevent browning)
  • 8-10 lb firm Asian Pears
  • 21/2cups sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 8 1/4” thick slices of peeled fresh ginger root
  • 2 stalks lemon grass trimmed, lightly smashed and cut into 3-4” pieces
  • 4 kafir lime leaves or 4 large pieces lime peel (with as little pith as possible)
  • 8 tablespoons (2 per quart jar) bottled lemon juice or 2 teaspoons  (1/2 teaspoon per quart) citric acid


METHOD:
1.  Start your hot water bath canner and prepare your jars and lids.
2. Mix the water and citric acid or lemon juice together in a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the pears (I use a melon baller) and place them in the water mixture to prevent browning.
3. Meanwhile in a large saucepan combine the sugar, water, ginger and kafir leaves or lime peel. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low.
4.  Place pears in a single layer (you may have to do two batches) in syrup. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes until fruit is heated through.

5. Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to prepared jars. Using tongs or a slotted spoon pack pears into jars as snugly as possible (the fruit shrinks while cooking). Fill to the top squeezing in extra fruit if possible.

6. Divide ginger slices, lemon grass and  kafir evenly between jars. Cover the pears with the sugar syrup leaving 1/2-inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims and place lids on screwing on lightly.
7. Place jars in canner covering with more hot water to submerge the jars by at least a full inch. Bring to a boil and process quarts for 25 minutes (timed from the boil). Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before carefully removing jars. Place jars on towels or a cutting board to cool.


November 19, 2009

QUINCE PASTE


A version  of quince paste in one form or another exists in many cultures. In the Middle East fruit pastes have been served to guests as a sign of hospitality for centuries. In Spain dulce de membrillo is served at breakfast with toast and cream cheese or as tapas with Manchego cheese. In France Pâte de coing is one of the thirteen deserts representing Jesus Christ and the twelve apostles served at dinner on Christmas Eve. And in recent years Quince paste has become an ingredient favored by chefs here in the United States.        
Quince paste is perhaps the earliest known preserve. Recipes for it date back to Roman times and versions of it appear in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. Marmelo is the Portuguese word for quince and marmelada is quince paste. Marmalade later became the general term for fruits cooked down and preserved in sugar. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Marmalade became a term referring to citrus preserves.
Quince paste usually requires hours of cooking and stirring to prevent burning while reducing the paste to the proper consistency. This wonderful recipe shortens the cooking and stirring by using the microwave oven. The microwave works like a charm, cooking down the hard quinces in a quarter of the time usually required. 


           MICROWAVE MEMBRILLO


YEILD:
6-8  4 ounce jars

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 lbs quinces
  • 1 cup white wine or apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar / cup of quince puree
  • Glycerin or almond oil (to brush jars)
METHOD:
  1. Peel and core the quinces, carefully removing any woody bits from the core. Cut them into ¾ to 1-inch chunks.
  2. In a large microwave safe bowl place an 8 once canning jar upside down (this prevents the fruit from settling in the middle and burning). Arrange  the fruit evenly around the jar and add the wine. Cover with a vented lid or plastic wrap, which you have pierced a few times. Cook on high for 15 minutes or until quinces are soft when pierced with a skewer.



  3. While the quinces are cooking, start your hot water bath boiling and arrange your canning workspace. Coat this inside of 8 4-ounce jars with glycerin or almond oil.
  4. As the paste thickens it cools and becomes harder to work with, so have you canning jars and equipment ready.






  5. When the quinces are done remove the cover and let cool a bit before placing contents in the bowl of your food processor and pureeing.




  6. Measure your puree; you should have about 3- 4 cups.  Return puree and an equal amount of sugar to your microwave safe bowl.  Return bowl, uncovered this time, to the microwave.  Cook on high for 15-20 minutes, stopping every five minutes to stir (this prevents burning and helps the puree cook evenly).
  7. When done the quince paste will have darkened and be very thick, not so thick that the spoon stands up in but way thicker than applesauce.


  8. Working quickly and carefully (the puree will be very hot) fill your jars, leaving ½ inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
  9. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
P.S.
  • The glycerin,which is a byproduct of vegetable oil, allows the dense paste to release easily from the jar.
  • The 4 ounce jar size produces a perfect disc to serve on a cheese plate.
  • Add quince paste to tangines and stews.
  • Top tarts with thin slices or place slices on the bottom of pies.
  • Serve alongside meat or game.

October 29, 2009

PARADISE JELLY


 PARADISE JELLY



Paradise jelly, a delicate combination of apples, quinces and cranberries, is truly my favorite jelly. A beautiful pink color it seems an old fashioned jelly, the kind you serve with a silver spoon at teatime.


My grandmother often made it and I consider her jelly the gold standard. She used Crab apples, which are abundant in New England. Here in California, Crab apples are scarce and expensive so I use Granny Smith or Lady apples but any firm tart apple will do.


Hard and sour, quinces are unpleasant to eat raw so demand for them is not great. Look for them at your local farmers' market or ask your grocer to stock them. When cooked the fruit is transformed; it turns a beautiful pink color and has a subtly perfumed flavor with hints of vanilla, pear and something almost tropical.



I have heard it said that Eve, in the Garden of Eden bit into a quince not an apple. Perhaps that is where this ambrosial jelly got its name. I only hope my version is as good as my grandmother's which to me truly was paradise.


Because of the high in pectin content of all three fruits, this jelly sets up beautifully making it another great jelly for beginners.

PARADISE JELLY 

YEILD: about 8 cups


INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 lbs quince
  • 3 lbs apples
  • 8 cups cranberries
  • 12 cups water or to cover
  • 3/4 cups sugar per cup of juice stock
METHOD:

  1. Wash the fuzz from the quinces. Remove the blossom end from the apples and quinces (I use a melon baller) and and cut them into chunks. Do not peel or core. Sort and wash the cranberries.
  2. Place the apples, quinces and cranberries in a large preserving pan with cover with water. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for about an hour  or until the quinces are soft.
  3. Cool slightly and pour into a moistened jelly bag or muslin set in a colander. Let drip without squeezing for 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Measure the strained juice stock into a clean preserving pan. Heat juice stock and for every cup of juice stock  add 3/4 cup of sugar. Increase the heat and boil for 10- 15 minutes, or until jelly is set, skimming as needed. 
  5. Remove from heat and skim if needed. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.
 NOTES:
  1. Don't be concerned that the quince take longer to cook that the apple or cranberries.
  2. You can tinker with apple quince ratio just keep the same weight of fruit.
  3. This is my favorite jelly on toasted white bread with a cup of tea! 
  4. Use it as a glaze on apple or pear tarts. 
  5. Quinces and apples are very high in pectin and set up very fast so make sure you are ready to can, with your work station organized your jars and lids etc ready.
 











October 16, 2009

APPLE SAGE JELLY


With summer and its lush bounty behind us we welcome fall's straightforward flavors. The crispness and astringency of apples, pears and pomegranates seem just what our palates crave.

Wonderfully simple, this  jelly’s clean flavors seem to perfectly complement autumns richer foods. A basic apple jelly is enhanced with cider vinegar and sage giving it a hard to define subtlety.

Because of apples' high pectin content this sets up beautifully, making it the perfect jelly for beginners.

I have for the first time included some step-by-step pictures. Readers, please let me know if you like this feature and I will incorporate into more pieces.


APPLE SAGE JELLY


YIELD: 4 1/2 pints

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3.5 lbs lady apples (you can substitute any flavorful tart variety)
  • 1 medium bunch sage
  • 12 unblemished sage leafs
  • Sugar (3/4 cup/cup of jelly stock)
  • 2/3-cup apple cider vinegar

METHOD:
       
    1. Remove the blossom end from the apple (I use a melon baller) and coarsely chop them. Do not peel or core. Place the apples in a large preserving pan with the sage and cover with 8 cups water.






    2. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until the fruit  is very soft. Stir once or twice but only to rotate the apples
    3. Cool slightly and pour into a moistened jelly bag or muslin set in a colander. Let drip without squeezing for 6 hours or overnight.







    4. Measure the strained juice into a clean preserving pan and add the vinegar. Bring to a boil and for every cup of apple stock add ¾ cups of sugar. Increase the heat and boil for 10- 15 minutes, skimming as needed. Cook until jelly is set. Watch carefully as the set can some on fast with apples.































    5. Place 2-3 sage leaves in each jar. Remove from heat and skim if needed. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy!   
    NOTES:

    • This is a wonderful fall jelly to have on hand to serve with roast meats or poultry.
    • Use as a glaze on apple or pear tarts.
    • Apples in general and particularly crab and lady apples set up very fast so make sure you are ready to can, with your work station organized your jars and lids etc ready.

    • Try substituting other herbs such as tarragon or mint for the sage.













    WALL STREET JOURNAL SAYS CANNING IS COOL!


    Duh!


    Maybe canning is the answer to economic recovery.
    Check out  Ana Campoys' article in the  Wall Street Journal  on canning. I think we are going mainstream. 
    Get canning everyone!

    October 8, 2009

    CANNED PEARS IN VANILLA SYRUP


    PEARS  
    IN VANILLA SYRUP

    Fall is here and with it apples, pears and quince, some of my favorite fruits.  With summer fruits waning we welcome the fall harvest announcing a new season of preserving. Few fruits lend themselves to canning as well as the pear. It’s delicate taste and firm texture make it a perfect canvas for a variety of flavors. 
    This recipe preserves the pears subtle almost floral flavor.  Adding a few peppercorns and the brandy to each jar  provides a barely perceivable  counterbalance to the the sweetness of the sugar syrup, making it a bit more refined than your average canned pear.
    Wonderfully versatile this recipe can be used in any number of dessert preparations.Having a few jars of these on hand allows you to whip up a glamorous dessert in a nanosecond.With the holidays around the corner that's a Godsend.


    Serving Suggestions
    •  With vanilla ice cream drizzled with bittersweet chocolate sauce
    • In their own syrup with a dollop of creme fraiche
    • A compote bowl filled with these is a beautiful addition a dessert buffet
    • Layer them in a store bought cake with whipped cream or pastry cream
    • Drizzle with caramel sauce
    • Add them to your Christmas trifle
    • Add them to a bread pudding  
     YIELD:
    • 4 QUARTS

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 gallon cool water 
    • 1 teaspoon citric acid or 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 8-10 Llbs  firm almost ripe Bartlett pears
    • 2 1/2 cups sugar
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 vanilla bean, opened
    • 24 peppercorns (preferably pink)
    • 4- 8 tablespoons Pear William or other brandy (optional)
    METHOD:

    1.  Start your hot water bath and prepare your jars and lids.
    2. Mix the water and citric acid or lemon juice together in a large bowl. Peel, halve and core the pears (I use a melon baller) and place them in the water mixture to prevent browning.
    3. Meanwhile in a large saucepan combine the  sugar and the water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and add the  split vanilla bean.
    4. Place pears in a single layer (you may have to do two batches) in syrup. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes  until fruit is heated through.
    5. Put six peppercorns and I - 2 tablespoons of the Pear William or brandy in the bottom of the hot sterilized jars. Using tongs or a slotted spoon pack pears into jars as snugly as possible (the fruit shrinks while cooking). Fill to the top squeezing in an extra half pear if possible.
    6. Fish out the vanilla bean and cut into 4 pieces, tucking a piece into each jar. Cover the pears with the sugar syrup leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims  and place lids on screwing on lightly.
    7. Place jars in canner covering with more hot water to submerge the jars. Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes (timed from the boil). Process pints for 20 minutes. Remove lid and wait 5 minutes before carefully removing jars. Place jars on towels or a cutting board . Let cool undisturbed for 24 hours.



    NOTES:


    • Don't be afraid, this sounds far more complicated than it really is.  Once you have the technique down you can riff on the flavors and apply it to other fruits.
    • While I prefer the look of wide-mouth jars, canned fruits or tomatoes fare better in the regular jars as the small opening helps keep the fruit submerged. With the wide mouth jars the fruit rises up to the top sometimes leaving you with an inch or two of liquid on the bottom of the jar, which while it does not affect the fruit, it does not look quite right.

    October 6, 2009

    GOODBYE GOURMET






     GOODBYE GOURMET 

    (is my life being eaten by the internet?)





    I was going to post a piece today on canned pears , waxing on about the glory of fall fruit, but the truth is I am too depressed .  Saddened by the news of Gourmet Magazines shuttering I am instead eating the pears in vanilla syrup, with chocolate,lots of chocolate.
    I know the internet has made made our lives faster and in some ways much more interesting. I know it has increased the exchange of information between cultures and is considered the great democratizer. I love blogging and the platform that the internet has given writers like me and a whole new generation of foodies.  But I am saddened to see the demise of publishing, the closing of neighborhood stores, and the homogenization of the movie business.
    I am going to have a nap, wake me up yesterday.





    September 29, 2009

    TURKISH FIG SESAME JAM



      TURKISH SESAME FIG JAM

    My friend Keller blessed me with a huge bag of his fabulous backyard figs. So I have bee on a fig jammathon. Inspired by a Turkish friends tales of her grandmothers fig jam I devised this recipe.
    Serve it on a cheese plate with feta or for something really decadent use it in a grilled cheese sandwich with manchego cheese. If you are making thumbprint cookies use a dab of this and you will have a hybrid Turkish Fig Newton.

    Jam on!

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2.5 lbs fresh figs
    • 2 cups sugar
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 1/3-cup sesame seeds toasted

    METHOD:

    1. Wash and stem the figs removing their woody ends.  Depending on the size of your figs cut them accordingly to give you small bite sized pieces.
    2. Layer cut figs and sugar in a preserving pan with lemon juice. Cover and let sit overnight or until sugar is dissolved.
    3. Place over Medium high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 45- 60 minutes, until fruit is translucent. Add lemon zest and sesame seeds and cook for 5 more minutes.
    4. Ladle jam into hot sterilized jars. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

    YIELD:
    • 4 8-ounce jars

    NOTES:
    • Backyard figs often have a sticky sap to which dirt adheres so they may need to be rinsed twice.
    • I have had variations in the cooking time depending on the variety and ripeness of the figs. Don’t be alarmed if you have to cook them longer, just keep a close eye on them.
    • Toast the sesame seeds in a sauté pan on the stove. DO NOT take your eyes of them as they burn quickly.

    September 27, 2009

    Jars Jars Jars and more Jars


    Jars Jars Jars Jars and more Jars



    Recently a reader inquired about the jar in my raspberry jam post prompting me to write a piece on jars, a subject sometimes overlooked. While ingredients and taste are  the most important aspect of canning its container should not be ignored. I realize this is only of importance to some of you but I personally am obsessed with finding the perfect vessels for my preserves. Having spent time and effort in their creation it only seems right that I find them a suitable jar and label. I like to have a collection of jars to choose from, a closet if you will, from which I can select the perfect jar for each preserve.


    Below is an over view on home preserving jars and my personal opinions on them, not in order of preference.


    Home canning jars in the United States are generally referred to as Mason jars or Ball jars, which are catchall phrases for any number of old fashioned looking jars. Today’s jars are comprised of three components, the glass, the lid and the screw band.The glass container is manufactured specifically for repeated cooling and heating. Never use chipped or cracked jars, and never reuse commercial jars. Bale jars (also called kilner or clamp jars) are unsuitable for home canning.


    The lid, which is the flat part, sets directly on top of the jars opening. It is coated with a special (more on this later) rubber like substance that adheres to the jar during the vacuum process. The second part is the screw band whose real function is to keep the lid in place during processing. The lids are designed for  single use only, but you can reuse the screw bands if they are undamaged, no dings, rust etc.


    Jarden Home Brands manufactures Ball, Kerr, Bernardin, and Golden Harvest jars, which are all available in North America. Bernardin is only available in Canada. A representative at Jarden told me that all their brands use the same glass and lid manufacturers.





                                         BALL ELITE COLLECTION

    Ball:
    Ball, the gold standard in home canning is Jardens most widely available brand. Providing the greatest variety of shapes and sizes, they manufacture everything from a dainty 4oz jelly jar to half-gallon canning tankers.


    Ball also manufactures the boutique Elite Collection, aimed at the gourmet canner. The wide mouth jars, which come in two sizes, eight and sixteen ounce, have a contemporary look with brushed silver lids that scream gift.
     When I first saw these jars I was thrilled, “finally” I thought, “someone has designed a cool looking jar”. Cool looking yes, functional no.
    The eight ounce, jar with writing on all four sides leaves no room for a label,which means you have to put it on the lid. If you are stacking your jars (essential with these jars as they have an overall height of only two inches) you cannot see, at a glance, what their contents are, which is very annoying.
    The 16-ounce jar fares better in this department as, as there is only writing on one side. This  is a pretty jar that lends itself to any number of applications. For my money this is hands down the best pint jar available.

    That said the Elite Collection has an essential design flaw. They do not stack. I can’t tell you how many of these I have broken when trying to stack them. So while I like the look of these jars,  I can only recommend them with reservations.
    I love the Elite Collection lids which come in boxes of twelve with or without the screw bands. These fit on any Ball wide mouth jar and add a polished look to any jar.


    Golden Harvest:
    Jardens lower priced brand is available primarily in the South and the Midwest.It is often found at Wal-Mart, Big Lots and Dollar stores. The jars, which are less decorative, have plain lids and come only in quart and pint sizes. I have never used this brand, nor have I  seen it for sale in California. I am eager to try it, as I prefer a plainer jar.


                                        Kerr Quilted Jelly Jars

    Kerr:
    This brand is available primarily west of the Mississippi.  Many people associate this brand with the quilted jar.  I personally am not a fan of the quilted jar (it looks like a fake Chanel bag) as they too have limited space for labels. In addition to an 8 ounce quilted jar both Kerr and Ball offer a 12-ounce size and an adorable 4-ounce size, great for gifts, or small batch preserves.

    Kerr has an eight ounce wide mouth, available primarily in the northwest for canning salmon. I have not personally used thisjar but they look like they would be nice for preserves particularly when topped by an Elite lid.


    Bernardin:


    Bernardin is Jardens Canadian division and they produce many of the same jars I have described  here.  But they do have a few products only available from Bernardin.
    They make the 250 ml (approx 8 oz) Preserve and Serve jar, which is my hands down favorite all around jar especially when topped with an Elite Collection lid.

    It's a wide mouth jar with  a European look, a flat side for a label and it stacks nicely.

    They also have an Elite Collection which makes these charming round pots with gingham lids. They have a country look which is perfect for fruit preserves. Strawberry Jam in one  covered with a red gingham lid is especially fetching. You can order just the lids and put them on regular 8 ounce  Ball or Kerr jars.

    I have ordered jars from Canada a number of times without problem. Golda's Kitchen can be accessed directly or through Amazon.com. Be sure to calculate the exchange rate and shipping.


    Check back in the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be posting another piece on jars. I’ll cover the European jar brands available and as well as other canning resources.







    September 14, 2009

    concord grape jelly

        ORCHARD HOUSE
                                                           

    CONCORD GRAPE JELLY


    I love Concord Massachusetts and its illustrious grape. There are many wonderful things about this small historic town northwest of Boston. Full disclosure first: I am partial to Concord, as I was born there. Think of Concord’s gifts: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, Nathaniel Hawthorn and Paul Revere’s ride immortalized by Longfellow.


    But closest to my heart is Louisa May Alcott and Orchard House where she grew up and wrote Little Women. I took my daughter there this summer on a literary pilgrimage. I was pleased to discover that the Concord grape was actually cultivated on a farm right next door to the Alcott’s house. Ephraim Bull (why don’t people have names like that any more?) was their neighbor who in 1849 using native species bred a grape hearty enough for the cold New England climate. I like to think of Louisa and her sisters Anna, Elizabeth and Abigail (Jo, Amy, Beth and Meg) sampling Mr. Bull’s grapes as they ran through the meadows surrounding Orchard House.


    Do not confuse this jelly with the Welch’s grape jelly of your childhood. Concord grapes produce a slightly musky jelly which when made with a reasonable amount of sugar, has a dense sophisticated flavor. It’s gamey and foxy, somewhat akin to one of my other favorite New England jellies, beach plum.


    I use my “go to ratio” of one of cup juice to ¾ cup sugar. Be sure to include some under ripe grapes for both their tartness and their pectin. To further balance the sweetness of the grapes I sometimes add savory elements. I like to flavor the jelly with peppercorns, red wine and thyme.

    GRAPE JELL


     YEILD:
    •  scant 4 cups

    INGREDIENTS:
    • 4-5 lbs concord grapes
    • 1 cup dry red wine
    • 3 cups sugar


    METHOD:
    1. Wash grapes and remove stems discarding any overripe grapes. Combine wine and grapes in a large non-reactive pot. Cook over low heat mashing a bit. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium, continue cooking for 10 minutes.
    2. Carefully transfer to a moistened jelly bag or cheesecloth set in a strainer. Let drip eight hours. Do not squeeze bag or push down on the grapes or you will get cloudy jelly!
    3. Let juice sit overnight in the refrigerator and pass through a moistened jelly bag one more time to remove all the sediment.
    4. Measure the juice; you should have about 4 cups. For every cup of juice add ¾ cup of sugar. Place in a large saucepan and over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to medium high and boil stirring constantly and skimming as needed. Watch carefully, cook until jelly is set 10 -15 minutes.
    5. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. Process in a hot water bath 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.
    VARIATIONS:

    • Add a few sprigs of thyme or one sprig of rosemary and 8 peppercorns to the juice in step 4. Put them in a tea ball or tied up in cheesecloth. Remove before straining.
    • Add 6 cardamom pods to the juice in step 4. Put them in a tea ball or tied up in cheesecloth. Remove before straining.

    NOTES:
    • Beware; this stuff stains like all get out! Wear black while making it.
    • Keep some moist cloths or sponges nearby, as it will also stain your counter tops and anything else it touches if you don’t wipe it up immediately.
    • If you are fussy about your enameled pots (like Le Creuset), which have light interiors, do not use them, as they will stain.
    • Do not worry about the cloudy residue on the grapes, it's natural.
    • This recipe is for concord grapes only, use other varieties at your own risk.