Understanding Grape Flavor

So, if there is one thing I have had a major gripe about since coming to this country 7 years ago, it’s Grape-Flavored Candy. Blackcurrant was always my favorite Starburst/Skittle/You Name It at home in Ireland, so I could not understand what this horrible substitute GRAPE was?! It didn’t even taste like grape!

Well, cue this week’s co-op share (we have switched to the co-op finally from our previous CSA and are enjoying the last weeks of their summer share). There were warnings on Facebook and by email – “There will be seeds! Do not fear the seeds!” Recipes were flying about for jam and juice… Jam, you say? Yay!
Well, we got 1.4lbs of grapes at the share pickup, and I tasted a grape and I finally understood! That essence, that flavor, is perhaps the most AUTHENTIC of all candy flavors!!! An American Concord grape. The grapes were so tasty, but the seeds were certainly a hurdle. They also had a weird gooey texture inside. It would definitely be a jam moment.

Of course, is it worth making a micro batch with 1 pound of grapes? Never fear – I had been following Facebook, and every week there had been an offer from the co-op for grapes going cheap because not enough people took them. I was ready for the post that evening and secured myself another 10 lbs.

The juice-extracting process looked laborious to me so I decided to follow my Ball Book of Home Preserving to make old-fashioned grape jam. This involves separating the grape flesh from the skins and then cooking them separately, before joining them together for the jam after cooking and removing the seeds.

8lbs grapes still left, 8 cups of grapes separated into skins and flesh

Separating the skins was a delightfully zen, squishy, relaxing experience that I completed while watching a complete 1.5 hour episode of Project Runway. Time-consuming for sure! Hmm, maybe I should research that juice for jelly process some more???

Indeed, juice for jelly is just pop everything in a pot with a little water, cook for ten minutes, mashing a bit sometimes, then set over a sieve with cheesecloth for a couple of hours – LONG, for sure, but not labor-intensive!

Preparing jars on the left, top right is preparing grapes for juice, bottom right is the two cooked jam components before adding the sugar and lemon

The jelly was easy, except the cooking took longer (35 minutes in my case) and when I forgot to watch the pot sometimes it boiled over and made an unholy mess. I got three jars of jelly out of that, (as compared to seven 8oz jars of jam) and processed the rest of the grapes to make more juice while I was at it. I think I will make some more jelly with that refrigerated juice, but I’ve run out of jars!!!

Looking forward to the winter

I had a taste this morning and I am absolutely won over. I will never complain about grape flavor again. (Hmm. Maybe. I still miss blackcurrant.)

Although I will probably be a complete snob, since those grapes were spectacular, so the flavor will be hard to beat!

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