Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Canning the Wild Concord Grape

It was wild. Aha, oho, yuck yuck! Well, one thing for sure - it was purple. I had one hot spill. And, of course, I spilled it on me. It was HOT!  So, I simulated a full murder theater arterial blood splatter across the side of the kitchen. Fortunately, just my hand, thus the quick fling and spatter across the wall got it off me. But what a spatter! It stained the paint - there are now faint purple spots across the wall. I went to the sink and turned the water on cold, and stuck my hand into the streaming water. Nice thing that we get pretty cold water. One of the benefits of well water.

But it is sooo good. Or at least I think so. Someone thinks it has an "off" flavor - but I think it is either some medicine she is taking, or it is the result of "sour grapes" since I cooked it. It is tart - it is not super sweet, and it is full of the grape flavor. And, it is jam, meaning the skins are in so it has a little texture. Oh, and yeah, the occasional seed, too. Didn't get all the little buggers.

Getting the seeds out turns out to be a lot of work. The 1st recipe I found online called for slipping the skins off the grapes. I did a couple, and immediately said, "whadaffuq am I doing here? This will take FOREVER!" And so I didn't slip the skins. That batch turned out just fine - but I gave up trying to strain the mess through a colander - I would have been there until next year. No-go on doing it that way. So, I find a local hardware with canning supplies and a FOOD MILL.. That's a little hand-cranked doobee that has two wings or leaves that push the solids into a colander type straining surface. That worked. Amazingly well, actually.

Except it left a lot of the skins in the "dry" part, and it would have take "foahevah" again to get it better this way. So, the next batch? I slip the skins off the grapes as I process them. It take a couple of hours to do a few pounds, but it does find grapes that are wormy and would have passed my "eyeball" test while I was washing them. Slipping the skins means I cook the pulp, which contains the seeds, and the skins separately, at least for the first step. I puree the skins, and I put the pulp in the food processor after cooking them soft. The food processors breaks most of the pulp free from the seeds, and into the food mill it goes. A half hour or so later, I have half as much pulp, but mostly free of seeds. A few seeds snuck through.

Now I get down to the serious cooking. These grapes are tart enough I need some sugar. Not as much as most recipes call for - about half that. I test the results for pectin - to see if I need to add pectin. The 1st batch tests low. The 2nd batch test "medium". Either way I have to add some pectin. I tried adding some crabapples in the first batch - they didn't test high in pectin either! Must 'a been too ripe, idk.

So I add pectin, and can. Everything turns out real well with the jam. I take a jar to some neighbors - the lady I buy eggs from. They like it, so I think my taste buds are validated. It has the flavor of these Concord grapes. They are wild, so the flavor is not as rich as it might be - but it is still very good. And there is tartness to it. I like it.

We have a bunch of apples on our tree this year, too. Completely organic - they get NO attention from me. Which means they are pretty funky to look at. Scab, worms, black blight, you name it, it afflicts the apples. Most of these do not affect the taste, just the appearance and size. If you are willing to cut them up, they are extremely good eating apples. Kinda like a fuji - sweet, AND tart, with crisp, moist, firm white flesh. Not grainy or mealy, until they are really ripe to the point of almost over ripe. Actually, fully ripe with these apples IS over ripe for eating. Because they are tart, they also cook extremely well. They make a great applesauce, with no sugar added, and no spices added - just apples.

I can a couple of quarts - but this canning doesn't turn out as well. I have problems getting the applesauce jars to seal. I'll have to figure that out. Also, I read on one recipe that a little salt in the applesauce will make an average applesauce a superior applesauce. So I add a little salt to the 2nd batch. Ooops. A little salt was too much salt. Now it tastes, hmmm, just a little odd. Not bad, just not really as good, either. Shucks. Well - I guess I won't be sharing little jars of applesauce for Christmas!

Note - this was actually written in September - just got around to posting it here!