Saturday, October 15, 2011

The J in your PB

I have always loved the classic sandwiches of childhood. More so than the fanciest foccacia, panini, pita or wrap, I am drawn to the basics: tomato and mayo on toast, peanut butter and honey (or an old vice of mine, golden syrup!), Nutella, and of course the tried and true PB & J. If peanut butter and anything else was involved, I had a very specific ritual of sandwich construction (i.e. I smeared the thickest layer of peanut butter I possibly could on both pieces of bread to keep the other filling from soaking in) and I never, ever toasted it. Ever. Runny peanut butter was just sacrilege to my young tastebuds. Jam was always either a chunky strawberry or a ruby-red sour cherry - I was not a sickly-sweet, gooey Welch's kid, and honestly to this day I'm still not.

And yet, I made Concord grape jam. Twice. And you know what? It's tasty enough on it's own that it would be a disservice to it to smear it next to some other competing flavour. I've dipped pretzels in it, smeared it onto crackers, mixed it into oatmeal and even made an impromptu "rice pudding" of sorts by reheating the jam mixed with leftover brown Basmati, a handful of strawberries and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. It's not overly sweet - the honey does a nice job of being sweet but also a touch bitter, and of course the grapes themselves are tangy.

I won't lie. This was an all-day (and on the second shot, a two-day) affair. Between the harvesting, stemming, washing, cooking, milling, cooking and canning, it does take a fair amount of stamina to produce. But as long as it takes, it's easy work, and it makes a ton. Not to mention that when you have the bevy of vines out back that we do, it's a dirt cheap way to enjoy organic jam year round. Making the batch of six jars ran me $3.30 roughly, not counting the jars (since my grandma gave me two big boxes of them!). Considering that a jar of regular Smuckers can be pushing $4, that's a huge win in my book. Not to mention that my spread was tweaked specifically for what I wanted, not the whims of mass marketing moguls. If you have a chance to make your own jam come next berry season, give it a whirl - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Many thanks to Local Kitchen and Kem Luther for your detailed instructions and info!!

Backyard Grape Jam
Makes six 250 mL (half-pint) jars, 48 (2-tbsp) servings
5 lbs Concord grapes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 packet no-sugar-needed pectin (I got the best results with Bernardin)
  1. Cook grapes 20 minutes in ½ cup water until mushy and falling apart.
  2. Pass through a food mill, discarding skins and seeds
  3. Bring pulp to a boil and add sugar and honey.
  4. Cook at a low boil until thickened, stirring regularly, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Add lemon juice and pectin, raise the heat and cook at a hard boil for 3 minutes.
  6. Ladle into jars and can in a water bath (10 minutes per 1/2 pint or pint jar).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 55.9
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1.1 mg
Total Carbs: 14.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 0.2 g 

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