How NOT to Make Grape Jelly

A while ago, I bought grapes. I like grapes, and I’ve been eating them, but not as often as I eat other fruits and the trouble with grapes is that you have to buy them in huge quantities, so this evening I found myself realizing that I needed to figure out a way to use or preserve all of my grapes, pronto, or I was going to be throwing away a whole lot of them.

So of course, as I do when I want to use up anything in my kitchen, I went to allrecipes.com and searched “grapes.” Enter the recipes for grape jelly.

“Oh!” I thought. “What a great idea!” I thought. “How hard can it be?” I thought.

I clicked on the first recipe and read the list of ingredients: sugar, water, pectin, and grape juice. “Well that won’t work,” I thought to myself. “I’m trying to use up my grapes, and I don’t even have grape juice.” I clicked on another recipe. This one used actual grapes, but still called for a ton of sugar. I happen to buy no-sugar-added preserves, so I knew it was possible to make it without. I tried Googling “no sugar added grape jam recipe.”

It wasn’t until I got through two or three of those that I finally realized the elephant in the room: all of the recipes required pectin, and I had no idea what that was and definitely did not have it in my kitchen. In retrospect I imagine it’s probably similar to gelatin, which I do have, and maybe I could have substituted, but in the moment I had a completely different thought process.

“That’s ok! I made those cherry cheesecake bars yesterday and the cherry part ended up like jelly before I mixed it in – I’ll just repeat that process with the grapes. I’m such a good cook now; I don’t even need a recipe for something I have definitely never done before.”

Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Cherry Cheesecake Bars

Fun obvious fact of the day: cherries and grapes are very different and are not good substitutes in recipes where consistency is really important. With that in mind, you can probably imagine where this went. So, without further ado, I present you with my very own recipe for…

Grape Jam (The Wrong Way)

1) Rinse grapes. Cut them into quarters (even the really small ones because they all need to be the exact same, darnit). Start thinking to yourself how great of a blog post this will make and ponder whether or not you’ll need to explain how one goes about quartering grapes. Come up with directions, just in case. Place quartered grapes into measuring cup until it’s full (1 cup quartered grapes).

2) Place grapes in small saucepan. Debate skipping sugar, then get nervous and add in a 1/2 tsp at the last minute. Also pour in 1 Tbsp water. Bring grapes to a boil, then turn stove down and set timer to simmer for five minutes. After two minutes, remember that you were supposed to add mixed cornstarch and lemon juice between the boiling and the simmering. Decide to be lazy, and pour 1/2 tsp cornstarch directly into the saucepan and then squeeze what seems like a good amount of lemon juice on top. Stir to combine, then continue quartering grapes until the timer goes off.

3) Place grape mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Put second cup of quartered grapes into the saucepan and repeat process, except without forgetting to add the cornstarch and lemon juice (but still neglect to mix them together first like you’re supposed to).

4) Once both grape mixtures have been poured into the food processor, get impatient waiting for them to cool (slightly) and decide to just go ahead and mix them. Pulse food processor until mixture looks kinda sorta smoothish, but still a bit lumpy. Realize, with great disappoint, that this mixture is way too watery. Convince yourself it can still be saved.

5) Add a bit more cornstarch to the mixture and blend. Realize that didn’t help any, and start to acknowledge that this blog post may end up being about a failure instead of a success. Rethink wording of previously (mentally) written portions.

6) Convince yourself that sheer determination will be enough to make this work, and consider what you normally do when something is too runny. Think of flour. Tell yourself that flour is for baked goods and occasionally tomato sauce, but definitely not for things like jellies and jams. Ignore self and add a bit of flour into the mixture anyway. Also decide to add more sugar because it tastes funny. Accidentally add way more sugar than intended.

7) Stir sugared, floured, grape liquid and realize it’s still too runny. Remember that the other thing you do with tomato sauce that’s too runny is boil it down. Pour grape mixture back into the saucepan and put stove on high to boil. Stir occasionally while you wait for it to get to a more jam-like consistency.

8) Forget to stir while preparing lunch for tomorrow, then have a brief moment of panic when you remember and think that you’ve burned the grapes. Stir enthusiastically, see the large clumps dissipate, then decide that it’s probably fine. Stir occasionally for a few more minutes until it seems like it’s reached a jammy consistency, then pour into a mason jar to be put in the fridge for later.

The funny part is that this actually worked for me. It looks gross, and it tastes a bit funny, but I did end up with a substance, made from grapes, of the general jam consistency and texture, that I can (and will, because sheer determination) use in place of store-bought jelly, which is definitely what I’ll be sticking to once this abomination is gone. But for now, here it is, in all its brown-colored, weird-tasting glory:

Grape Jam Failure

If anyone knows of any recipes I can use to get rid of and/or preserve the rest of my grapes, please let me know.

(And yes, it took two cups of grapes to make about 3 oz of jam.)

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