Grape Jam!

I'm really excited about this latest creation, because it's my first Paris Paysanne project- meaning it's homegrown and homemade. This is the second year we've had our grapevine and last year, I'm sorry to say, we pretty much just let our little grape harvest wither away. We snacked on a few, but the fruits were a bit bitter and pretty seedy- so we didn't think to use them as anything other than a decoration for our balcony. However, this year our harvest was bigger, and I was armed with books on canning and preserving and eager to make something out of the fruits of our balcony.

I used a recipe from Sherri Brooks Vinton's book Put 'em Up, as you will see I strayed a bit from her advice about halfway through, going rogue (Grizzly Grapes?) when it came to my jam. The recipe I used was meant for making jelly- but I couldn't abandon all my lovely grape skins and fleshy bits so I opted for a nice fruity jam.

My little vendange, or grape harvest, yielded about 3 cups of grapes, so I adjusted my ingredients accordingly, preparing the following:
A very generous 1/2 cup of water
A less generous 1 cup of sugar (I used unrefined)
2 teaspoons of agar-agar (Sherri calls for 1 teaspoon of pectin)
And here's what I did:
Step 1: After taking the grapes off their little branches throw them all in a pot with your very generous 1/2 cup of water (the water should almost cover the grapes, but not submerge them). Bring it to a boil and then bring it back down. While this is simmering, use a potato masher or a fork to mash the grapes until they are broken and bruised.

Step 2: Line a colander with paper towels or whatever. I ripped up an old bedsheet that already had a tear in it. You can use any fabric that will let water through. Put the colander over a bowl that will collect your grape juice, then pour your grape/water mix into the collander. During this process, you'll find that a lot of grape seeds are sitting in the bottom of the pot. I got rid of those. I think grape seeds are good for you, and there certainly were a lot that got left in, but I don't especially like their taste, so I let the stragglers go.
Step 3: Sherri says to let this whole thing drain over night, but I don't think the rules apply to me and also, while doing this I read in her book that she isn't really a fan of kimchi and I started to trust her less. So, I watched the stuff drain into my little bowl, putting the juice aside in a bottle as it drained. Then I left to teach for a few hours, and by the time I got back there was hardly any juice left to drain so I moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Combine your sugar and agar-agar in a bowl. Put the juice in a pot and bring to a light boil, then add your grapey mess of skins, seeds, etc. Mix in the sugar and agar-agar, stirring while it dissolves. Remove from heat and let sit.
Step 5: When the jam is cool enough, you can transfer it to a jar (unless you want to can it- I haven't done that so can't tell you how). If you use a jar you can keep the jam for up to 3 weeks. Don't worry if the jam seems to liquidy, it will jelly up once it's cooled in the fridge.

Step 6: Wait until the next day- this rule probably does apply to everyone- and then enjoy! I've altered this recipe once learning from my mistakes, the first time around I put in too much sugar and agar-agar- so I encourage you to keep it to what I wrote above. Still, I was pleased with my first ever Paris Paysanne project and found that it was a great jam to be enjoyed with some organic camembert and fresh baguette. We are also going to make PB&J Crêpes with it!

Grape jam is super easy to make and grapevines are way low-maintenance (and pretty) additions to a balcony garden. You can use grapes to make many home-made products (baked in cakes would be another good one) or you can share your grapes with others, by the bunches or as juice. To make grape juice just follow steps 1-3 and then maybe bring to a boil with just some water and sugar.