Concord Grape Jam

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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  1. says

    I share your love of jam. Came upon some damson plums recently, which reminded my of damson jar my Nana made when I was a kid. I had to buy them and make a batch myself. Just talking about it is requiring me to go to the fridge & sample it.

    BTW, thanks for the great tip about copyscape–every writer with a website should know about it.

  2. says

    I applaud your diligence in making this jam from scratch but I have to say that any recipe that requires peeling grapes individually seems like a bad joke. I think I will need to order some from you instead! It does look delicious though!

  3. says

    To clarify, I did not mean to say the recipe was a bad joke! The grape peeling is the joke–in the way that my mom says, “Do you want me to peel your grapes for you?” when she is telling me I’m asking for too much. Sorry–I hope I didn’t offend! :)

    • Casey BarberCasey says

      Ha! Sarah, I get it, never offended here. I couldn’t imagine peeling green grapes but these pop out really easily. However, if you DO want me to peel your grapes for you, you’re gonna have to come visit me and the cats in Jersey.

  4. says

    Peel the grapes? See, I think this is why when I do try making jam (I so shoulda paid better attention when my mom was doing it) I’m going to start with raspberries. No peeling required.

  5. says

    I love concord grape jam- it reminds me of childhood. I agree that lately a smear of it with some cream cheese on a hunk of country levain is my favorite go-to dessert. Or breakfast. Or snack. Or… :)

    Wish the concord grapes were easier to find in California. Great write-up Casey!

  6. says

    Oh, dear. Would you like me to peel your grapes for you? might just catch on as a phrase. Ha!

    I pretty much ate PBJ every day as a kid. Still love it.

    This doesn’t look quite as onerous as the time I decided homemade orange marmalade would make great holiday gifts. THAT is a ton of work.

  7. says

    You are ambitious to be making something where you actually have to peel each grape individually, I must say. But I’ll bet it’s worth it – brings back so many memories of my childhood, eating those PB&J sandwiches, and never, ever getting tired of them!

  8. says

    Okay, here’s where our friendship might be really tested. I have never liked grape jam. Ever. I prefer my PB&J with strawberry or raspberry. But, I bet you could change my mind. In fact, I’m daring you to the next time you make some.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Oh, Jamie… if we lived closer, we could clean and make jam together. It would be the best of both worlds!