Jellies Resurgent

September 21, 2008

Well, I’ve been working on jellies in the last couple of weeks and I’ve got two projects done.

The first jelly was the classic grape jelly. I got a bunch of fresh, organic concord grapes from Blue Skies Farm for super cheap because they were split in the picking.

I guess the farm makes wine from the majority of the grapes they grow, so the field hands aren’t very careful in picking the grapes. Perfect for a jelly maker.

The first time I had concord grapes, maybe 4 or 5 years ago, they were sitting on the counter in the kitchen of the house I was living at at the time. I absent mindedly picked one off the vine and threw it into my mouth. “Wow,” I thought, “this tastes just like grape jelly!” I had always just assumed that the flavor of grape jelly was as related to the taste of real grapes as blue razzberry is to real raspberries. Wrong! It’s just that concord grapes have a flavor all their own. Musky, tart, striking. I liked them a lot and have been eating them every year since as they come into season.

My goal was to try and make the grape jelly without pectin, as I’ve been trying to do with all my other jams. I found a recipe online that suggested I could do it, but I noticed that Ferber adds whole apples to all of her grape jams and jellies. I decided to trust the internet, over Ferber.

Honestly, what was I thinking?

The long story short is this: I’ve managed to make a great tasting grape thing with the consistency of molasses. There’s not really any pectin in grapes, so making jelly out of them is not really an option without added pectin of some kind. Oh well, lesson learned.

Here’s the jelly slowly working its way through a muslin lined chinois to achieve really clear jelly.

My next project was watermelon jelly. I had gotten a watermelon from my friend Andy at Sprouting Acres farm at market and was excited to get it into jelly form. But, after my grape jelly experience, I was wary. I also didn’t want to go the pectin stock route, because one of the great things about the watermelon juice I was turning into jelly was it’s bright pink color and I didn’t want to mess that up.

In the end, I decided to give commercial pectin a try. I can see that it has it’s uses and I’d like to be comfortable using it when appropriate.

This jelly turned out great in terms of color and texture. I also really like the flavor, but it’s not a peanut butter and jelly jelly. It’s also not really a cheese friendly preserve. I will tell you that it’s nice on toast and english muffins. It needs to be on or with something fairly light and unobtrusive because it itself has a fairly light and delicate flavor profile.

Also, depsite the fact that Watermelon Rose sounds both like a bath gel and a stripper, I added a rose hip infusion to the jelly as well. And before you get all in a huff, rose water and rose petals have a totally different flavor than rose hips, the fruit of the rose plant. Rose hips are tart and unctuous, not overly floral and grandma-y.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to in the jam world.

What’s coming next you say?

Maybe Maple Nectarine, maybe Quince Preserved in Honey.

Maybe something else entirely.

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5 Responses to “Jellies Resurgent”


  1. I wonder if the watermelon would taste good with cream cheese since cream cheese is sort of bland? I can’t picture that flavor combo at all.

    Sounds pretty anyway!

  2. sivia Says:

    Hi:
    I have just harvested about 200 pounds of grapes from 4 vines. These are eating grapes: Thompson Seedless and Red Flame, and I would like to make jam. All the recipes I see are for concord grapes which have a lot of pectin. Do you have any recommended preportion of grapes to pectin to use?
    Thanks
    sivia

  3. davidmatthew Says:

    Hi Sivia,

    That’s a lot of grapes! One guesses you don’t live in Wisconsin with that kind of yield. As for pectin levels in grapes, the levels of pectin is fairly constant across grape varietals, so I would think you could use the same pectin ratios that you find in concord recipes with your grapes.

    Let me know how it goes!

    dm


  4. […] you remember when I made my Watermelon Rose Jelly that I said it sounded like both a bath gel and a […]

  5. Gaia Says:

    I initially found my way here because of my recent grape jelly post. My vine was in place before I was, so I’m not sure what kind it is … maybe Thompson seedless. It’s a greener grape, and the jelly turns out a lovely pink color. Similar to your watermelon effort (which sounds lovely, by the way!) the flavor is very delicate — NOT “grape jellyish” at all. Like you, I have had to steer away from the heartier breads in favor of lighter, milder ones, in order to show of the jelly.

    Thanks for your posts on Jelly. Fun stuff!


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