Concord Grape Jam

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on November 8, 2010

Every autumn, as the leaves turn crimson and the days get shorter, I too shift my rhythms: I turn into Monica Geller, go on a massive housecleaning binge, and make loads of jam. And though there are infinite jam varieties in the world, this is the one I turn to year after year. It’s too good not to share with you again.

Right now, somewhere out there in syndication world, maybe on TBS, CW11 or WGN, they’re re-running the episode of Friends where Monica makes pots and pots of jam because she’s depressed and Joey sits around eating it all. Now, Joey Tribbiani and I are one in many ways (see also: Thanksgiving pants and discussion of moo points), but perhaps none more so than in our shared jam obsession—in my case, Concord grape jam.

concord grape jam
I actually can’t make too much of it at once because it will be my breakfast and dinner every day until the jar is empty. Today is day two of the latest batch. If I don’t run out of edible delivery vehicles on which to smear the indigo elixir, it could be gone before Thanksgiving.

It’s deceptive, really. Concord grapes have a dusty, dull skin, an unpolished charcoal hue that only hints at the ultraviolet purple potential, the vividly sweet concoction that out-grapes its Smuckers brethren with the most purely distilled grapeyness ever encountered. It’s the flavor of the all-purpose room and foldable tables, of jelly damply soaking into wheat bread after being bagged up in the lunchbox all morning, but better, fresher, more intense.

concord grapes
These days, instead of traditional peanut butter and jelly, I’d rather eat Concord grape jam layered with cream cheese on a bagel. Or generously spread atop sourdough bread that’s been brushed with a wee bit of salted butter (this works equally well with sour cherry jam). Or inspired by Shake Shack‘s custard of the month, dolloped over vanilla ice cream as an impromptu sundae topping.

Yes, the sensible question here is why I don’t just bust out my water-bath canning equipment so I can luxuriate in Concord jam year-round? I very well could. But apart from my irrational impatience with canning (some people can’t deal with poaching eggs, I get really testy when I’m spending hours poaching glass jars), part of me wonders if I would love it so much if it were always available. Like how I binge on Cadbury Mini-Eggs every Easter until the sight of one repulses me, some things are just better in limited quantities.

Adapted from The Lee Bros.’ recipe for scuppernong preserves in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, the following recipe should make enough jam to get you through the month.

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