T’is the grape season, or at least I think it might be. In any case. When we moved into this house, there were grape vines out by the garage, and we saw no reason to take them out, so every year we have these concord grapes. I was told they get nicely sweet after the first cold frosty night so I always waited until after the first chill to harvest my grapes. We never really had very many, perhaps because I generally forgot to water the vines, or picked the grapes a bit too late or too early. Who knew?
This year, I watered the heck out of the grapes, and for whatever other reason, this was my most bountiful harvest ever. So, what to do? Over the years I have tried making grape butter (not too bad), grape jam (actually turned out to be syrup), and other such. But I had found a new grape jam recipe, so after harvesting all these wonderfully sweet grapes (even though no frost yet), I set to work.
First, you have to skin them. That took about three hours standing up–enough for one day, I decided. Next day, I got out my canning gadgets (I make a pretty good peach butter, if I do say so), and began. Cook the pulp until the seeds let loose, then press through a sieve (or use my handy-dandy presser). Meantime, cook the skins until tender. Good grief, two pans cooking at once–out of my league. But OK. Then put the skins in the pot with the pressed seedless pulp, add sugar, and cook until thickened, stirring “frequently”. The test for done jam is freeze a spoon, then dip it in the pot and stick it in the freezer for three minutes, and if the jam does not run after that, it’s done. So, OK. Off we go. Cooking, stirring, testing. One cookbook (the really old one) says it is best to cook fast rather than slow, but another newer recipe says cook for a couple of hours. Hah, I like the fast cook thing, so that’s what I did, meaning the heat under the pot was fairly high. Cook, stir, test. Oh yeah, getting there! Got the last test out of the freezer and it needed just a couple more minutes. And the doorbell rang.
You know the result, don’t you? Got rid of the young men with books, ran back to stir and smelled the burn. No need to test, no need to stir. Up until then, this was my very best jam ever. So what to do? Don’t stir, and hope the burn stays at the bottom. OK, poured the upper portions into my boiled jars, sealed them, and boiled them again for the required minutes. Everything popped beautifully. I scraped the burnt jam out of the bottom of the pan, little tears of despair falling quietly into the pot.
Anyway. I tried a taste test on some whipped cream biscuits I had made for the purpose (never had those?, oh are you missing something!). Not so bad. A very slight tinge of scorch, but considering the time I put into the project, eat-able. So, look out–my freezer contains several jars of slightly scorched grape jam that I am willing to part with for the right price.
Moral of the story? Never answer the doorbell while cooking your grape jam (or pudding, for that matter, although that is another story altogether).