Grape Jelly with Balsamic & Black Pepper

With the last of my 13-pound haul of Concord grapes from Maine I decided to attempt a jelly (even though jelly and I are not best friends). Since I’d already made a sweet-tart jam and a maply graple syrup, I decided to hit a savory note with this one; I went with the classic addition of balsamic vinegar and black pepper.

As usual with my jelly attempts, I’m not so sure about this one. It did set, at least, but it set too firm for my liking. Many dark grapes are already slightly peppery and I think I went overboard on the pepper with this one as it is the predominant flavor.  I’m hoping that the jelly may mature a bit on the shelf and once the flavors blend it will be a little more balanced.  We did use a tablespoon or two in a quick vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic, salt & jelly) the other night and it was quite tasty; if nothing else, I’ll have lots of base for a quick vinaigrette!

Adapted from Grape Jelly in Put ’em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton

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Grape Jelly with Balsamic & Black Pepper

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 and 1/2 lbs Concord, wild, or other purple seeded grapes, to yield about 4 cups juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup apple pectin stock
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 1/2 cup honey (wildflower)

METHODS

  1. Rinse grapes well, stem, then rinse again. Combine with water in a medium (4-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, occasionally stirring and crushing with a potato masher, until most grapes have broken down, about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer grapes juice + pulp to a scalded jelly bag suspended over a heat-safe bowl.  Allow to drain, undisturbed, for at least 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  4. Scoop off the grape juice from the top of the bowl (there will be some sediment at the bottom that you’d rather avoid) and transfer to a medium stockpot (4-quart) or Dutch oven. I yielded just under 4 cups of juice; this recipe is likely flexible enough to use 3 and 1/2 to 4 and 1/2 cups juice.  Add apple pectin, vinegar, pepper, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add sugar and honey and return to a boil. Raise heat to high and boil hard, stirring occasionally, and testing for gel point frequently (220 degrees F on an instant thermometer or 2-minute cooled liquid forms a wrinkled gel on a frozen plate), for about 20 – 25 minutes. Once you’ve reached the gel point, turn off heat, skim foam, and ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process  in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields about 3 cups.

OPTIONS

  1. This jelly came out a bit more savory than I was looking for; I think 1/2 tsp of pepper was too much, and in fact, if I were to try it again, I might omit the pepper entirely. Maybe sub in a mild herb like thyme or savory.  We’ll see how I like it once it sits on the shelf for a bit.
  2. One package of commerical pectin could be subbed in for the apple pectin stock; read package instructions for how/when to add the pectin.
  3. For straight-up grape jelly, omit both the pepper and balsamic; you may want to add 1 – 2 tbsp of lemon juice as acid aids in forming the gel. You can also increase or decrease the sweetener, although going much lower than 1 cup of sugar will impact forming a gel (I started with 1/2 cup sugar and it simply wouldn’t gel).

STORE

Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year.  Refrigerated, use within 1 month.

SEASON

Fall.

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