Purple Grape & Plum Jam

Looking back to see what I was doing a year ago, I found I'd shared this jam recipe on the old blog so I figured I'd transfer it over to the new blog today. Hope you enjoy. :) 

Ever since I discovered that I could make a small batch of strawberry jam with just fruit, sugar, a little lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, that I wouldn't have to sterilize jars for (if it was to be consumed within a couple of months) or make enough to feed an army in the process, I haven't looked back.

And when berries or other jam-able fruits are on sale or clearance, I take advantage of the savings and make a jar or two of super fresh and intensely flavored jam for less than I would pay for store bought product with added water, corn syrup, starches, or any number of other thickeners or fillers.

I hope that doesn't come across preachy as much as encouraging and inspiring. Because as a parent who's seen much more hectic days while juggling career and family, I totally get why we buy jam at the store. I'd still be buying some jam at the store if I didn't have as much time at home as I do.

But I really do think you'll be so pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to make delicious jam at home. And with the slightly thinner texture of a no added pectin recipe, it's totally adaptable and delicious not only with toast and PB&Js, but yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake, layered in a trifle, mixed with warmed Maple syrup as a flavoring... So many possibilities.

But enough of this soft sell on making jam at home... :P

Last weekend, I bought what I thought were Concord grapes on clearance at the market and realized upon coming home that they were Niabells. Turns out they're not all that different. Slightly smaller fruit size and thicker skin, but very similar flavor.

And on a second grocery run, black plums were on sale, and they were deliciously fragrant in the market so I had to bring some home.

Then as I was thinking about jamming the grapes, it occurred to me that ripe plums taste quite similar to ripe purple grapes - candied, fruity, and musky - and could make a great augmentation to my grape jam seeing as I only had 1 pound of grapes.

Turns out it worked just fine and resulted in a double batch of an overwhelmingly grape-y tasting jam with a delicate and harmonious hint of plum.

That said, a little caveat. If you've never made jam before and this particular one intrigues you, I recommend using seedless Concords if you can get them so you don't have to trouble with peeling or removing seeds. If you use seedless Concords, you can skip the peeling and seeding steps.

Another note: Many Concord grape jam/jelly recipes don't make any mention of removing the seeds, so it's very possible that you can have a great end product leaving the seeds in. But having grown up eating Concord grapes (which are very popular with Koreans), and accidentally biting into their seeds and tasting their acrid bitterness, I didn't feel like taking chances with my first batch of grape jam.

One more note: If your standard or expectation of grape jam or jelly is something like the Welch's so many of us grew up on, you have to use a dark purple table grape like Concord or Niabell. Regular red and green grapes just don't have that same musky, candied flavor.

Purple Grape & Plum Jam
Makes roughly 32 ounces

- 1 pound Niabell or Concord grapes, peeled and seeded
- 1.5 pounds ripe black or red plums, washed, seeded and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 2 cups sugar to start
- a pinch of salt (about 1/16 of a teaspoonful)

1) If you're using seeded grapes, peel and seed them. Peeling these grapes isn't like peeling red or green grapes. You can just squeeze them with the stem end facing away from you, and the entire pulp will separate from the skin. As for seeding, I opted to just dig in with my fingers to halve the pulp and remove the seeds, grape by grape. There are other ways to remove them, but none I've tested for this purpose, so I'm not comfortable suggesting them at this point.

2) With the seeds removed, run the grapes through a food processor for 20 to 30 seconds to help break up the skins a bit.

You can also use a stick blender or regular blender, but if you're using a regular blender, you'll have to constantly scrape down the sides with a paddle or spatula, making sure it doesn't touch the blade, to feed the blade and keep it going because you don't want to add water and dilute the grapes.

3) Put your plums, grape puree, sugar and salt into a large saucepan (or deep saute or stock pot or Dutch oven - whatever you have on hand that works), give it a few good stirs, and put in on medium heat, uncovered, until the mixture starts to gently boil and bubble. Once it does, keep it at that heat for a minute. (This should take 10 to 15 minutes.)

4) Then turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. At this point, if you don't care for chunks in your jam, get a potato masher and give the plum chunks a thorough mashing. If you don't mind the chunks, no mashing necessary.

5) Simmer an additional 25 to 40 minutes, depending on how thick and concentrated you want the jam, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes and ensuring that the heat never gets so high that you can scrape fruit solids off the cooking surface.

Low and slow is the key to jam. Once you've reached that initial gentle boil, you almost can't ruin the jam by turning the heat down too low, but you can easily burn the solids and the sugars by leaving the heat a little too high for a little too long. If you're unsure, always err on the side of lower heat and just let the jam go longer to get to your desired consistency.

This is also a good time to taste for sweetness and see if you'd like to add a little more sugar. Remember to cool your sample completely so you can accurately taste for sweetness. Things tend to taste sweeter when cooler. If you add sugar at this point, let it go an extra 5 to 7 minutes to make sure to melt the sugar completely.

6) When the jam is a very thick and syrupy, you can turn off the heat or let it go a few minutes longer for a thicker consistency before turning off the heat. Keep in mind the jam will continue to thicken as it cools.

7) Give the jam 15 or 20 stirs to release some heat and enable it to cool faster. Cool completely before transferring to a thoroughly washed and dried lidded container. Glass or plastic, doesn't matter.

Enjoy! :)




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