Right now, somewhere out there in syndication world, maybe on TBS, Nick at Nite, 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 2 pounds Concord grapes
- 2/3 cup (150 grams; 4 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- Gently squeeze each grape to separate its innards from its skin and divide between two bowls. It's a bit tedious, yes, but not half as annoying as pitting pounds of sour cherries.
- Add the grape innards to a small (1-quart) saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes to check the consistency, until the orbs disintegrate into a slush and the seeds are rolling around free.
- While that simmers, finely chop the skins into mush.
- Once the insides have softened in their pan and released the seeds, strain the slush through a wire strainer over a medium (2-quart) saucepan and gently push the goo through with a spatula, leaving the seeds behind.
- Add the chopped grape skins, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes more, letting the syrup reduce and thicken. The jam won't completely firm up until it cools completely, but it will start to coat your spoon/spatula instead of just rolling off in a thin liquidy stream.
- Ladle the jam into clean canning jars. Let the jars cool for at least 15 minutes on the countertop before sticking in the fridge.
- Eat on the aforementioned bagels, toast, Wheat Thins, cornbread, scones, ice cream, a spoon, or your fingers.