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Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

I got an email a few weeks ago from Farmers & Artisans, an amazing local shop that features produce, dairy and meat from local farms. They were offering 4 and 8 quart baskets of Concord grapes from Blackman Homestead Farm in Lockport. I decided with how much I am in love with my juicer right now, I need to buy the 8 quart basket, so I could experiment with making juice and trying to make jam for the first time. I never buy jam at the store because I hate all the preservatives, but occasionally I will buy a jar from the farmers market. I was a little concerned about the jam making since I had never done it before and I really didn’t have a great way to remove the seeds as I don’t have a food mill. I made jam twice, trying out two different methods to see which would work best. The first way, I added the grapes whole to the food processor, with the sugar and pulsed them a few times to break them down and mash em up. Then I cooked the jam down, allowing it to thicken. Once it seemed like it had cooked down enough and was quite thick, I ran it through a strainer to remove the seeds. The only problem with this method is that not only did it remove the seeds, but it also removed the thick hunks of gooey goodness (the natural pectin) that makes jam what it is. I ended up with more of a Concord Grape sauce or thinner jelly. I tried adding it back to the saucepan to allow it to thicken more, but it just didn’t do it. The jam needed bits of the skins and more of the natural pectin. All was not lost, I have been spooning the first batch of jam over granola and oatmeal, it would also be great drizzled over ice cream or yogurt or in a smoothie.

So, the second time around I decided to separate the skins from the flesh or pulp (and therefore the seeds) of the grapes, one by one. It sounds kinda tedious, and I guess it kinda was, but I didn’t mind, I knew it would be worth it. Then I pulsed the skins with the sugar in the food processor and cooked that down on its own, cooking the pulp down in a second saucepan by itself, mashing every so often to break it down. Once the skins had cooked down quite a bit and really gotten thick and jam-like, I strained the pulp from the other saucepan through the strainer to get as much of the juice and added it to the beautiful skin mixture. It was surprising how easy the whole process was. From what I have read Concord grapes are a slip-skin variety grape so I suppose that is what made that part of the process so much easier than I had anticipated.

Concord Grape Jam

You could certainly make a larger batch and go through the hassle of canning and preserving if you wish. I am not versed at all in preserving and honestly am quite intimidated by the whole process. Maybe some day when I have a huge kitchen and tons of storage space I will experiment with it.

This jam is preservative free and is full of intense grape flavor. It is perfectly sweet and tart. I am sure you could experiment with using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar, I just wanted to go the traditional route for my first time. If I get around to experimenting with honey, I will report back.

Obviously if you have a food mill you can simply process the grapes whole with the sugar, then use your mill to remove the seeds and cook down the mixture in one pan, no need to strain.

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Rolls

I decided to fully enjoy this jam I needed to make some delicious gluten-free multi-grain rolls. I couldn’t just slop it on any ol’ store-bought bread or roll, it seemed sacrilegious. I used gluten-free girl’s recipe with a few subtle substitutions. I used tapioca starch instead of potato flour and I made my own oat flour since I couldn’t find any that was certified gluten-free. I highly recommend this recipe. These rolls are incredible and I love that the recipe is gum free (no xanthan or guar gum). They are super crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. These rolls are perfect as is with a little jam, toasted with a veggie burger, etc. The same recipe with make two boules instead of the rolls, if you wish. I thought I was in love with gluten-free girl’s previous bread recipe, but this one blows it out of the water. Try it!

Oh and by the way, I have a very small amount of grapes left – not enough to really do anything major with – so I plan to soak them in vodka to make some tasty Concord grape infused vodka!! Come on, how could it not be good?

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam

Concord Grape Jam
makes about 1 cup
Inspired by Healthy Green Kitchen and a handful of other recipes I came across

2 lbs fresh local concord grapes, about 5 1/5 cups or so (if you can find them seedless YAY – I wasn’t that lucky)
2/3 cup organic raw sugar plus 1 tablespoon
juice from 1/2 lemon

Separate the skin from the pulp of each grape, by applying pressure to the grape with your thumb and index finger, shooting the pulp right out. It’s fun and very simple to do.

Process the grape skins with the sugar in your food processor or blender until mostly smooth but still a tad bit chunky. If you want your jam super smooth, process longer. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Watch it carefully and stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes until it has reduced down and thickened.

Meanwhile in a smaller saucepan cook the grape pulp (insides) and 1 tablespoon of sugar over a medium-high heat, bring to a boil and mash the pulp as it cooks to break the down. Once bowling reduce the heat and allow to simmer as long as your grape skins do. Once the grape skin mixture has thickened, remove the pulp from the heat and strain through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove the seeds. Add the juice that drained out to the grape skin mixture.

Allow the jam to continue cooking another 10 minutes until thick. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if it isn’t sweet enough for you. This was plenty sweet for me. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Trust me. It also thickens a bit more once in the refrigerator, so down cook it down too much.

Allow the jam to cool before pouring it into a well cleaned and tightly sealing jar. This jam will keep in the refrigerator for approximately 1 month.

NOTE: I have to apologize for the lack of process photos with this post, I had intentions of showing step by step photos of the entire process. However, the morning I was making this jam it was very dark and stormy. The lighting in my kitchen was horrible and with the yucky wind and rain, I wasn’t able to tote things out to the back patio as I usually do. If you have any questions regarding the process, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

As you can probably tell from reading my recipes, we eat very little meat in our household. We aren’t vegetarians, but I would say we are mostly vegetarian. I consider myself to be a conscientious omnivore, I do eat meat occasionally, but only meat that I know where it comes from, how it was raised, what it ate, etc. At this point the only meat in our house comes from a local farm where it was all pasture-raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals. We have visited the farm, we have seen the animals and we have shaken the hand of the man who does it all. This is the only way I will ever buy meat for our home. It feels right. This fall we shared a pig with my parents. We have more pork that you can even imagine in our freezer. At home I would say we probably enjoy pork once or twice a month and chicken once a month. I have a good supply of this wonderful ground italian sausage that is unlike anything you can ever imagine. So tasty, sweet, subtly spicy and not too greasy, it is perfect. Without the ability to make patties and throw them on the grill (it is WAY too cold for that), I was trying to think of some winter friendly ways to enjoy the sausage. I thought a nice hearty soup would be perfect. I was torn between a tomato-based vegetable pasta sausage soup but then I thought something creamy and hearty sounded even better (though I plan to make that first soup soon).

This soup was really incredible, spicy and creamy with a nice green crunch from the spinach. The fresh herbs were wonderful, though dried will do if you can’t find fresh. I wanted it to be nice and brothy and wanted more servings so I used about 7 or 8 cups of chicken broth, you can certainly go with less, 5 or 6, if you want it to be a chunkier and less brothy soup. I also decided to go with half and half versus heavy cream to keep it a bit lighter per serving, but heavy cream would certainly be delicious and with less broth you would have a nice thick soup, just a bit fewer servings. Oh and the freshly grated parmesan cheese on top really sets this soup over the edge. It is the perfect finishing move.

*I am not at all crazy about the photo of this soup, it was hard to photograph with all the lovely bits, and I forgot to put the cheese on top for the photo, but you get the idea.

Creamy Italian Sausage and Potato Soup
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of ground Italian pork sausage, local, pasture-raised and free from hormones and antibiotics
6-8 cups of organic chicken broth, low sodium
5 small russet potatoes, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes with the skins still on
1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of organic half and half
2 cups of coarsely cut spinach
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion gets soft. At this point add the Italian Sausage and cook until its browned. Our sausage isn’t very greasy so I didn’t need to pour any out, if your sausage produces a lot of grease pour some off before adding the soup.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat add in the chicken broth, potatoes, basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

After the soup has been simmering add the sausage, onion and garlic mixture and cook another 5-10 minutes. After it is done simmering, add in the half and half and stir. Reduce the heat and be sure it doesn’t boil. Cook another 2 minutes. Taste the soup, add more salt and pepper to taste. More red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.

Remove the soup from the heat, add in the spinach and cover. Let it sit for an additional 3-5 minutes until the spinach is cooked.

Ladle the soup in your bowls and sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese.

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