You know what they say: When life gives you a graduate program with impossible amounts of reading, an emotionally and physically exhausting internship, three midterms, a role in a play that opens in a few weeks, a tutoring job, and that pesky need for sleep....make jam.
Specifically, Concord Grape and Habanero Jam.
Last Sunday, the Boyfriend and I packed up our Sunday Times, a few bell jars, a large pot, picked up some bagels and fixings from Murrays, and headed over to our friend Chef Josh and his lovely Lady Kate's apartment for some jam-making. It was a gorgeous day and the sun splashed cheerfully across the enormous mound of concord grapes that greeted us, nestled in a plastic tub that will soon be employed for a much cuter task, that of bathing Chefbabygirl, coming soon.
When the four of us plopped down on the floor to begin the job of separating the grape skins from the fleshy innards, I must say I felt a bit like Sisyphus facing the mountain. But, get a spicy glass of Bloody Mary, a bite of bagel with whitefish, and some great company, and the pinching and squeezing of a billion brilliant purple grapes takes on the feel of a group meditation. Or commune living. The sun was warm, the grapes smelled divine, and I couldn't have thought of a more pleasurable form of manual labor. Also, if a nine-month pregnant Lady Kate could sit on the floor for an hour of grape separating, I could do it.
From start to finish, the process really is a day-long event, but well worth it. You know of my recently-discovered fondness for jam-making, and this could not be simpler or more delicious. It really tastes nothing like what you'd buy off the supermarket shelves, and because you're doing it by hand, you can adjust the sweetness, the heat, the texture and viscosity to your liking. And like it you will.
The final mix before the last simmer
Bring brunch. You'll need the sustenance.
Boo: I'll be right over. A little crusty bread and butter and you'll be smacking your lips with delight. It's sweet but not too sweet, hot but not spicy. The habanero comes at you more like an afterthought to keep you on your toes. It's grape jam dressed up in its best pair of sassypants.
Concord Grape & Habanero Jam
* 2 Qts Concord grapes, stemmed
3 Cups Sugar
* 1 Habanero Chili Pepper, lightly crushed
* Ingredients seasonally available at your neighborhood Greenmarket
Separate the pulp/seeds from the skins.
In a food processor, chop the skins with one cup of sugar. In a large pot simmer this mixture over low heat.
In a separate pot, simmer the pulp with the remaining sugar until completely broken down. About 20 minutes.
Strain out the seeds, pushing the pulp through with a ladle. Add the strained pulp to the skins.
Boil this mixture, stirring often, and carefully, until thick and jelly like.
Kill the heat and toss in the habanero to steep, it will quickly give off it’s great aroma and some of it’s heat. Lightly stir, monitoring the heat by tasting, remove the chili when the spice level is to your liking.