Ok, most of you know what a square I am, and even though we are from Colorado, and even though I actually do know what Purple Haze is, and love Jimmy Hendrix, this purple haze is completely different.
Concord Grapes. For real, I honestly did not know that flavor existed in nature.
This weekend the man and I drove over the mountain to the valley next to ours. I know it is crazy, but this valley is one of the coldest spots in North America, but the valley about 70 miles away is a temperate climate, growing most of the fruit for all of Colorado, and really is an oasis.
I have visited this fruit and vegetable vendor over the years, very infrequently, but we never knew that you can go in the back and pick your own fruit… or whatever they have growing.
I asked the man if we could go for a walk in the orchard and as we did we saw a few people among the gardens and kind of felt like trespassing. Walking through a grape arbor, I was taken back to my childhood with an intense fragrance of Welches grape jelly, a staple in our house along with Skippy peanut butter. A family was walking through the arbor and asked, “What kind of grape is this?” as their dog was peeing on the grapes. No one answered. I was so taken aback by the intense grape jelly fragrance that I blurted out, “Grape Jelly!!! can’t you smell it?”
Maybe the dog pee was overwhelming to them, but the man who had the dog on the leash, as it kept peeing on several grape vines said, “it must be concord grapes.” hmmm.
I knew it was rude, not as rude as letting your dog pee on someone’s food, and I knew it was stealing, but I had to taste one of those grapes, so I did. The grape explosion in my mouth was so intense, and catapulted me back to childhood, that I was a bit of in shock. Up walks a girl, actually with purple hair, netting shirt, short shorts and lots of tattoos, and she is carrying a basket. I ask her, “So, how does this work?” She kindly tells me that you can get one of those baskets and fill it with whatever you want, take it inside and they weigh it for you to pay. OMG, just like the place we went to in Switzerland!
I did not even care that they had dog pee all over them. We picked the higher up ones. I am definitely going to grow Concord grapes in the future. Get your hands on some if you can.
So, now what to do with them?
I only had a bit of organic vodka left from my yummy experiment of dried pears and vodka, having used all the pear vodka and made a pork liver pate with the left over pears, making anyone wonder why they feel drunk after eating pate. hmmm.
I filled a quart jar with grapes and poured over the vodka. By Christmas they should be intensely infused. Two quart jars filled with grapes and topped off with raw apple cider vinegar will make a lovely grape vinegar.
The man wanted me to try and make jelly with the rest, so I made jam. All the recipes I found on the internet said you had to peel the grapes (Concord grape peels pop off easily when you squeeze them) but I was not about to take the time and do that, as I was pretty certain that the peels would disintegrate with cooking and then I could strain out the seeds later.
This was about 14 cups of concord grapes and I used a deep stockpot because I wanted to use my immersion blender later and not make a mess.
I figured it needed a little liquid to get going, and could have used water, but wanted extra flavor so I used one cup of kombucha.
Most of the recipes called for 5 to 7 cups of sugar! and though I knew it needed a little sugar to set up, I wanted the grape flavor to stand out and only used 1/2 cup of organic sugar.
Bring to low simmering boil and sure enough, without any effort, the skins came off.
I let it cook a while, about 15 minutes, and then used my immersion blender to make sure the skins and pulp were pulverized.
The seeds are very hard and I knew that they would not break up with the blender.
You could use really any strainer, and I had an old jelly strainer I had never used from a garage sale.
Pour the jam back into the stockpot and keep on a low simmer, stirring every so often, so it thickens up. I did not want to lose any flavor from the rest of the pulp and seeds so I added 1/2 cup water to it and cooked them down a bit in a separate pot before straining them again and adding the liquid back into the large pot.
No pectin needed, and it is a lovely thick jam.
14 cups of grapes made 3 and 1/2 pints of jam. I had a pot of boiling water on the stove, put the jars in the boiling water for a few minutes, and the lids, and ladled the boiling jam into the hot jars one by one, put the lids immediately on, and they did form a good seal, lids popping down. I did not then water bath the jars, as I hate doing that, and will store this in the fridge anyway, but most recipes say you should water bath them for about 10 minutes.
My mom was a very good cook, but did not make a lot of things from scratch. I remember one wonderful summer where we helped her make wild plum jam. So good.
Sometimes she would try and pass things off as homemade. She would always make huge formal family lunch after mass on Sunday. One Sunday she skipped church, as she would get “over churched” sometimes, and when we got home she served chicken cordon bleu! Ha! We were all amazed as she talked of all of the back breaking work that went into creating that.
After lunch Daddy dug around in the trash and found the box of Swansons chicken cordon bleu. Busted. 😉
Yes, you could go to the store and buy a big jar of Welches grape jelly, which is much easier, but man, this really isn’t the same thing.
Purple Haze indeed. My man might even be cured of ice cream, as he wants to just eat the whole jar.