Black grapes jam and some old, old memories..
Every time I log onto blogger to publish a post, I wince with guilt. My inner voice looks at me accusingly, arms akimbo, and says “I thought your blog was about food as well.” I slink away with a pacifying “I know, I know…I will write something next time.” But then, like we all know, there is nothing as ‘next time’.
So, finally, after a long time, I hauled myself by the ears and sat down to write. About food, for a welcome change.
Since the time my parents have come, I have been making my dad’s favourite dishes but not clicked any pictures of them. He is still the foodie that he had been, though my mom has kind of lost her appetite and interest. Unfortunately, both of them being diabetics, they could not taste the one thing that I made for the first time in my life – fruit jam!
I grew up watching Ma make luscious jams, jellies and marmalades from the fruit growing in our backyard. I especially remember the bottles of rich, crystalline guava jelly – their delicious dark pink colour sparkling in the kitchen shelf when sunshine fell over them. Sadly, I was never a sweet person (pun intended) and she would end up distributing the jelly amongst my cousins and neighbours.
Still, I loved to see the entire procedure, the chopping of the guavas with their pink insides, Ma tying up the muslin-bound fruit mash between two wooden chairs for the liquid to drip off overnight and then cooking it in sugar syrup the next morning. Our bungalow would be filled with a sweet, fruity aroma and I would wait eagerly for Ma to pour the jelly into the freshly washed-and-dried glass jars.
Once, I recall, I was reading the comics section of an old issue of Illustrated Weekly when my eyes fell on an advertisement of a jam-n-juice brand called Dipsy (I think) with a cartoon cowboy endorsing it. (Anybody else remembers that brand from the late 70s? The ad used to be a mini cartoon story.) It was quite late at night and we were in Manas then, which is a wildlife sanctuary. Suddenly, I had an intense craving for Dipsy juice, which was shown in beautiful glasses, and I threw a mean tantrum in the middle of the night. Ma lost her wits and after many futile attempts to distract me, she finally took out an almost forgotten, half-full bottle of guava jelly from the cupboard.
“Here, take this,” she offered the bottle to me. “This is the Dipsy you wanted.”
“But this is not juice,” I pointed out petulantly. Yes, I was quite smart even at that early age, you see. (Ha ha)
“This is the same thing,” Ma replied quickly. “Just that the juice has stiffened and become jelly-like. It was inside the cupboard for so long na, that’s why.”
Her answer and logic satisfied me and taking a spoon I set about devouring the jam till I scraped it empty. I think that was the most amount of jelly I had eaten in my childhood.
And so, with that memory revisited, let me tell you about what I made. Since I don’t have a sweet tooth, I rarely make anything sugar-laden. But these days, whenever we return from our weekend birding trips, I find the road sides dotted with vendors selling freshly picked (plucked?) black grapes by the bunch. They are so sweet that we end up buying kilos of grapes but mostly forget about them when we reach home. They would languish in the fridge till one day one of us would stumble upon them. Finally, I decided to do something to the grapes and as if by providence, the recipe for a grape jam was trending on Facebook. Let’s hop across to it now!
Black Grapes Jam
(Recipe source: Chef At Large community on Facebook)
Black Grapes – 1 kg
Water – ¼ cup
Sugar -1 and ½ cup (I put in a bit less though)
Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
A pinch of salt (optional)
First, separate the grapes from their stems and wash well. Then, put them in a pressure cooker and cook for one whistle. Lower the heat for 2 minutes before switching off. Let it cool and open the lid.
Put the cooker back on flame and cook the grapes on high heat, stirring occasionally. Although it was not mentioned in the recipe, I slightly mashed the grapes using my potato masher so that the concoction became thick and pulpy.
Now, tip in the sugar and cook on high heat for further 12-15 minutes. My grapes were so sweet that I really had to force myself to add the sugar. Do not reduce the sugar too much though, otherwise the jam will not thicken.
Take the cooker off the gas and when the jam is slightly cooler, add lemon juice and the pinch of salt. Stir well and transfer the jam into clean dry bottles and refrigerate.
That’s it! I never knew making jams was so easy a job! No peeling, chopping and toiling over the gas for hours, as I had assumed. I loved the devilish, dark purple colour of my jam and its pulpy texture. It tasted divine with my roti, with a few slivers of butter thrown in. (Sorry but I just can’t do without a little savory addition.)
Do try this out, now that black grapes are in abundance, and let me know how long it took for you to finish the bottle.
PS: Since there are no preservatives added, you might want to speed up the consumption procedure.