Friday, October 28, 2011

Preserving the harvest: Muscadine jam

Muscadines. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Recognize these plump grapes? They're Muscadines, a grape native to the Southeast that has been cultivated for more than 400 years. They appear briefly in Southern supermarkets from late August to September, and even into October, usually alongside their green-skinned cousins, the Scuppernong. These native grapes are distinguished by thick skins and sweet juice, that I think has a slightly musky or earthy fragrance, others may disagree. It took me awhile to love muscadines, but I do, especially now that I cook with them.

Yesterday, I shared a recipe for muscadine sorbet, inspired by Chef Brian Jones of Atlanta's Ritz-Carlton (downtown). Today, I'm so excited to share Chef Brian's recipe for a divine muscadine jam, an ideal way to preserve the brief muscadine harvest.

Chef Brian Jones of the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta (downtown). By Jonathan Orozco.

Chef Jones is a Southerner who uses Southern ingredients in new and fresh ways. He serves muscadine grapes as a palate cleansing sorbet at Atlanta Grill at the Ritz-Carlton downtown, and he turns them into Muscadine jam flavored with vanilla and port wine. He graciously shared the jam recipe with A Cook and Her Books.

Muscadine Jam or Jelly
Provided by Chef Brian Jones, Atlanta Grill, The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta (Downtown)

Yield: approximately 1 gallon

This recipe may be reduced proportionately, but it’s as much work to do three gallons as it is to do two pints. Chef Jones advises that the smaller muscadines are more flavorful than the larger ones.

4 pounds (12 cups) muscadines, whole and washed

1 pound sugar

½ cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, split

Big pinch ground nutmeg

Big pinch salt

2 cups Port wine

4 cups water

1 pouch, Sure-Jell dry pectin or Certo liquid pectin

1. Prepare and sanitize 8 pint jars (or 4 quart jars or 16, 8 oz jars, etc, etc) with lids according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

2. Place muscadines, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, port and water into a large sauce pan and place on a medium-high flame.

3. Once mixture begins to boil, stir frequently to break up muscadines and skim (remove) foam from top of hot mixture as it appears.

4. Cook on a low simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Taste the mixture. If it tastes right, stir in the pectin. If it needs tart or sweetness, adjust the flavor, add the pectin and let the jam simmer for another five to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

6. For jam, pour mixture into a china cap (a coarse conical strainer, in which the holes are smaller than the seeds) or a fine mesh strainer. Proceed to push the mixture through the strainer until the majority of the pulp and juice rests in the container below.

7. For jelly, pour mixture into a jelly bag or a “chinois” (fine mesh conical strainer) lined with cheese cloth. Allowing the juice, only, to fall into the container below.

8. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for canning the jam or jelly.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer,
with the exception of the photo of Chef Brian and the recipe, both provided by Ritz-Carlton Atlanta.


Cookin' Canuck said...

I have never tried muscadine grapes but, from your description, this sounds like a perfect way to highlight their flavor.

Kate@Diethood said...

YUMMO! I love grape jam!