Compared with strawberry or peach jam (in which you cook mashed fruit with sugar and pectin, then can it), grape jelly and grape jam are both a total pain in the butt. I’m here to tell you that I am a Grape Jam convert.
Jelly: Pick grapes from stems, put in pan and cook down. Place cooked grapes into a jelly bag (or a pillow case tied to something up high, with a bowl underneath it) and wait, wait, wait for the juice to drip out. Do not squeeze the bag or your jelly will be cloudy. Heat the juice, add sugar and pectin, cook it, can it. Whew.
Jam: Pick grapes from stems. Take each grape individually in your hand and squeeze out the insides into one pan, and put the skin in another. Repeat 85,839,385 times. Cook each pan separately. Put the cooked innards through a food mill to get the seeds out. Combine the innies with the outties and cook some more with sugar and lemon juice. Cook until the jam reaches the gel stage, which for me was at least 20 minutes. Can it. Three hours! Whew.
I’m convinced now that grape jam is worth the work.
Food-by-the-side-of-the-road alert (adding a tag for this because it’s a common theme even if I haven’t yet written about it): I bought my grapes from a dude selling them across from the Voke school in our town. I saw him last year but neglected to buy any. I’m glad I did! $5 for enough grapes to make 9 half-pints of jam.
I had two fears about grape jam:
One, that it would be runny. Sandwiches with my grape jelly from last year are best eaten over the sink, because they drip, drip, drip. Forget about making a sandwich ahead of time–the bread will get soaked through in a few minutes. My grape jam is nice and thick and I put gobs of it on a sandwich for lunch last week. When I ate the sandwich hours later, the bread was still dry and there were no drips!
Two, grape jam has grape skins in it, and I was afraid it would be gross. You need to use the skins because that’s where the good stuff is–the natural pectin, the purple color, and the concord-y flavor is all in or just under the skin. But when I boiled the skins they looked really gross, pale and floating in a pot of purple juice. For the purposes of science I decided to follow the recipe as directed (and not strain the skin out or blend the pot of skins with an immersion blender). My fear was unfounded! They manage to disappear in the jam, just adding some nice subtle texture.