the Concord Magazine

Aug/Sept '99
The Ezine for and about Concord, Massachusetts

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Concord Cooking: Concord Grape Conserve

By Deborah Bier, publisher and editor of this ezine. This is part of an occasional feature about food and cooking in Concord.

In our area, late August/early September is the time to pick both wild and domesticated Concord, fox, and other similar grapes. These are dark, deeply flavored, seedy grapes which are so fragrant you can smell their perfume at a distance. While I find these grapes a challenge to eat because of both the seeds and the tart flavor, they make wonderful conserve.

Conserve is a type of preserve which contains more than one type of fruit. In this case, grapes are joined by their older cousin, the raisin, and by citrus fruits and spices. It is wonderful on breads and muffins, and makes an amazing peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. I think my favorite is as part of the cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwich duo.

In recent years I have made this in the microwave. I don't know if this is a recommended way of doing it, but it seems to work well. Because microwave oven powers vary, do keep an eye on this because if it boils over, it will make everything within a mile a deep, rich purple. Which is nice if you like that sort of thing. But if you wish to use the stovetop, follow general cooking directions for making grape jam.* Notice no pectin is needed as the fruit seems to contain enough.

I painstakingly invented this ambrosia about 20 years ago, with lots of testing and adjusting until I got it just right. I have never eaten anything like this before or since. Yet sometime later I found a close version of the recipe in my grandmother's 1936 Settlement Cook Book. Just proves the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Concord Grape Conserve

I always find it a bit unpredictable how many grapes I will find to gather. So use the below as a guideline.
  • 3 cups grape pulp (see below)
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced oranges, cut in 1/2" pieces
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced lemons, cut in 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 c seedless raisins
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground clove
Combine the above in a microwave-proof bowl with plenty of head room to prevent it from boiling over. Cook on high power for 20 minutes and then stir. Then cook on medium power for 10-15 minutes until it passes the jelly test.*

Place in sterilized jars and cover with paraffin to seal. Or place in jars and store in the freezer until ready for use.*

Grape pulp: place washed, stemmed grapes in a large saucepan, adding about 1/4 cup water. Cook covered on medium until the skins begin to burst. Cool. Run these through a food mill, removing the skins and seeds.

*Check out the Sure-Jell Website for general instructions on how to make jams and jellies.

Text: ©1999 The Concord, MA Homepage
Artwork: April Rain

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