Concord Grape Jelly

Pictures and paintings of autumn’s harvest bounty invariably feature juicy red apples, golden yellow pears, ruby red pomegranates, orange persimmons, squash of all shapes and colors, plums (plum colored?), and always clusters of gorgeous purple grapes spilling over the side of a bowl or out the side of a horn of plenty.
autumn-fruits
I associate grapes -- green and red -- with summer. Fresh, cold and not-too-sweet, they are perfect warm weather thirst quenchers (especially frozen). But strolling through our nearby French Market http://www.wilmette.com/business/frenchmarket.aspx last October I discovered generous cartons of purple Concord grapes giving off the headiest grapey fragrance. Concord grapes exist for just about one thing: homemade grape jam. And why not? I’ve made strawberry, raspberry and peach jams before, so grape jam can’t be too difficult.
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When I was a wee-small girl, our neighbors had grape vines camouflaging the chain link fence that surrounded their tall, narrow white house on the corner. My friends and I used to sneak hard, unripe green grapes from those vines, and ohmyGOSH were they ever tart! My mouth puckers just thinking about it. After they ripened, Mrs. Neighbor magically transformed those grapes into jelly. I had no idea how one made jelly (it was bought, at the grocery store) and imagined Mrs. Neighbor’s kitchen full of beakers and cauldrons and tubes pushing purple goop into jars. She passed along some of her finished jelly to us, and boy that goop tasted good!
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So I bought a carton of those aromatic Concord grapes (about 1.5 to 2 pounds, I think), set out a few Ball jars with rings and lids, found this http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2009/09/21/concord-grape-jam/ recipe, and got started.
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Other fruit jams require removing little green tops (strawberries), peeling (peaches), or mashing (raspberries). Concord grapes require blooping -- that is, squeezing each and every grape out of it’s tasty tart purple skin (here’s an action pic from Hungry Mouse http://www.thehungrymouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/DSCN1093.jpg). Bloop! Just like that. It’s easy but a bit time consuming. Some recipes call for mashing the grapes without skinning them, some for blooping. I blooped. The blooped grapes resemble eyes of newt. http://people.uwec.edu/piercech/animals/newt-cal.jpg
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The skins were pulverized in a blender along with some sugar and lemon juice, resulting in a sweet, bright purple juice that I wanted to drink down on the spot.
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Pulverized skins and blooped grapes go into a pan for heating to a full rolling boil. Mmmm, smells amazing already.
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Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble! No actual eye of newt http://www.potw.org/archive/potw283.html in there (nor toe of frog nor wool of bat nor tongue of dog ...) No trouble, either. Everything is bubbing along merrily in there.
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Cheesecloth is the traditional grape jelly strainer but my fine mesh sieve did the job. Kept all those crunchy seeds out of the smoooooth grape mixture.
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Now, apparently grapes have some pectin, to help the mixture set up, but mine must not have had enough. Or I didn’t boil it vigorously enough, or something. I could tell it wasn’t setting properly, so I did end up adding powdered pectin (Hungry Mouse’s recipe doesn’t call for it, but other http://allrecipes.com/recipe/concord-grape-jelly/ recipes http://www.eatingoutloud.com/2010/09/coronation-grape-jelly-recipe.html do http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cooking-live/concord-grape-jelly-recipe/index.html. After cooling it was still looser than regular jam but nicely spreadable and oh so yummy.
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Well look at that -- just enough for one pretty li’l jar of grape jelly, about 2 cups. Not too bad for a first try! I didn’t bother with ultra sterilization and hermetic sealing -- this jar was going straight into the fridge to chill and then back out ASAP to dally around with buttered toast. Concord grape jelly 10
And it was scrumptious -- just like eating Concord grapes off the vine but without that mouth-puckering tartness. No comparison
at all with Welch’s Grape Jelly, but possibly a rival for the original Welch’s “Grapelade” http://file.vintageadbrowser.com/l-460twb69hhgefk.jpg (“... velvety smooth, rich and delicate in flavor.” Mmmm, sounds dreamy!) I could easily see filling pockets of pie crust with this jelly and making tasty little grape tarts. Next time.

Concord grapes are uniquely American, making Concord grape jam a uniquely American treat. In fact, grape jam or jelly of any sort seems to be almost exclusively American. The grapes themselves were bred in Concord, Massachusetts around 1849 by Ephraim Wales Bulls http://kaufmann-mercantile.com/ephraim-wales-bull-and-the-concord-grape/, a self-taught horticulturist who crossed various grape types to create a variety that would ripen between the late spring thaws and early autumn frosts typical of Concord’s climate. Bull’s efforts resulted in the Concord grape, hailed around the country for its hardiness, musky fragrance and sweet flavor.

In 1869, Thomas Bramwell Welch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bramwell_Welch devised a method of pasteurizing grape juice to prevent it from fermenting into wine (he was a staunch Methodist and prohibitionist). Later, the Welch’s company developed a jam called “Grapelade” (grape + marmalade?) which evolved into their now-famous Concord Grape Jelly. Although peanut butter was not invented by an American http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcellus_Gilmore_Edson, the peanut butter making machine http://stlouiscore.com/blog/2012/04/12/i-love-peanut-butter/ was.) So when you make a good old fashioned peanut butter and Concord grape jelly sandwich, you are taking a bite of American history. (Don’t forget the milk!)
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Scottish baps.

flag-mini-Scotland If you need an excuse to eat bacon and eggs, the Scottish bap is it.
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This simple (very few ingredients) and easy (uncomplicated, even novice bread makers can make these) soft yeast-raised "morning roll" with the floury top was practically born to be lightly toasted, buttered, and filled with crispy bacon and a nice runny-yolked fried egg. Oh, be still my heart!
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Your heart just might stand still forever if you make a regular event of breaking your fast on cholesteriffic bacon-and-egg filled Scottish baps (also known as "Scots" baps). But while you are feasting, you probably won't care, nor should you. This is treat and I'm sure you've earned it.
Scots baps 4
After all, there's nothing wrong with taking the time to enjoy really good hearty foods every so often. You can't spend every second worrying that your favorite culinary pleasures might send you to an early grave, can you? Live in the toasty, buttery moment! Carpe breakfast sandwich!
Scots baps 6
It was nigh on impossible learning the origins of the fun and unusual word "bap" and only slightly less challenging finding some history on baps themselves. Some sources hold that baps are well-established in the Scottish culinary repertoire. They are traditionally unsweetened in Scotland (the better for bacon and eggs, my dear ...) while the Irish version, by some accounts, is sweeter and studded with currants. Naturally further research yielded all kinds of regional variations, so I disclaim all inaccuracies herewith. And be careful how you bandy the word about over there"bap" is, according to the Irish slang site slang.ie, a crude term for breasts. If you go asking that nice tea shop girl for a couple of her best baps ... well, you've been warned.
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Isn't yeast-raised bread sort of amazing? I mean, take the basic combination of flour, yeast, water/milk, salt and sometimes sugar or honey, play with the quantities and preparation methods, and the result can taste so different with each recipe. One combination might yield high honey-kissed loaves perfect for sandwiches or toast, another makes crusty hole-riddled batons ideal for sopping up sauces and olive oil dressings. This recipe rewards you with not only soft flat(ish) baps, but also their stouter be-dimpled cousins called “Kentish huffkins." (There's another fun word for you!)
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According to my favorite Ultimate Bread book, the recipe for baps and huffkins is the sameit’s only the shape that varies: baps are oblong while huffkins are round and have an irresistible dimple in the middle. I divided the dough in half and made them both at the same time.
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However, in snooping around the webs I see many huffkin recipes (and some baps recipes as well) include a quantity of butter or lard that the Artisan Breads recipe didn't call for. Darnit, are my baps and huffkins inauthentic?
Kentish huffkins
Adding to this muddle, some recipes also call for poking a dimple into the middle of each bap, which my research suggests is unique to huffkins (posing uncooked, with dimples, above). So, dimple or no dimple?
Scots baps Kentish huffkins
I made my huffkins with and my baps without. (That's a traditional dusting of flour on those baps, by the way, to keep them from developing a crust while they cook.) After baking, we sliced the soft, undimpled baps, toasted them very lightly, buttered them generously, and filled them with fried bacon and eggs. One source describes such rolls as an "envelope for filling," and a tastier envelope there never was.
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Somehow, this simple roll combined with crispy bacon and fried egg is just ... simply ... delicious! There's absolutely nothing fancy going on here, and the result is supremely tasty and satisfying. There's no arguing that really great breadhowever basiccan make everything (even just butter) taste better.
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Baps could stand up to a variety of cheeses, sandwich meats, grilled chicken, tomatoes, pickles, sliced apples, mustards, smoked salmon, cream cheeseanything. Going sweet? Try them with butter and jam, peanut butter and honey, fruit butterswhatever the occasion calls for. And for the ultimate sandwich, a warmed bap with a few squares of quality dark chocolate tucked inside would, I have no doubt, rival any French baguette performing the same duty.
Kentish huffkins 2
I know for an indisputable fact I could exist on warm homemade bread with lashings* of butter accompanied by cups of rich hot chocolate or (decaffeinated) mochas for the rest of my days on this earth, however few that might end up being on such a diet. Bread really is the stuff (oops! staff) of life.

Now I wonder if you could put
Scotch eggs on a Scots bap?

*That's the Brit term for "lots and lots."

Scottish Baps

From
Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno

3/4 cup lukewarm milk
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp. dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3-3/4 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. milk, to glaze

Combine milk and water together (ideally in a glass measuring cup). Pour 1/2 cup of the mixture into a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar into it, and let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Stir in 1/2 cup of the remaining milk/water mixture (there should be 1/2 cup of the mixture left).

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast. Mix the flour into the dissolved yeast mixture, then stir in the reserved milk/water mix, as needed, to form a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat all sides of the dough with oil, and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down, then let rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a flat oval, about 1/2 inch thick. Place on a floured baking sheet (a small fine sieve with flour in it makes dusting the baking sheet easy). With the remaining 1 tbsp. milk, brush each bap with milk and sift a heavy dusting of flour over each.

Let the baps rise again, uncovered, until doubled in size
30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400º Fahrenheit. Bake baps for 15-20 minutes, until risen and golden. Remove to a wire rack, cover with a dish towel and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

As always, feel free to leave a comment.

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