I haven’t had a classic PB&J in years because, honestly, I’m not into grape jelly. Any jelly, really. Preserves, which contain the whole fruit, are much better. Unfortunately, I have yet to find grape preserves anywhere.
Small fruits like grapes, figs, and berries are my favorite, since I prefer to graze on fruit a bit at a time and can never eat a whole apple, pear, or citrus in one sitting.
When I tasted Sweet Surrender grapes after purchasing them for the first time, I was blown away by their flavor and sweetness. To be honest, it was a bit much for me, as I’m pretty sensitive to sweet. There was no way that I could get through the whole bag before they spoiled and I will never waste anything if I can help it. So, with all that natural sweetness in the flesh and pectin in their super thick skins, I figured they’d be perfect for preserves! No added sugar needed, with just an apple to provide extra pectin for natural gelling power.
The grapes’ robust flavor is further intensified when reducing it to a preserve, which makes it stand up really well to complementary flavors. I chose to use clove, star anise, and bay leaf. If you don’t have such spices on hand, I’m sure classic cinnamon and clove would be delicious as well :).
I don’t know if this recipe is appropriate for canning, as there is no added sugar. That said, in regards to flavor, the variety of grapes has so much sweetness that you don’t need any added sugar, and the pectin from the apple provides all the thickening you need.
Makes about 1 cup preserves
2 pounds (1 bag) Sweet Surrender grapes, or other dark, thick skinned sweet grape varietal, such as Concord (see note if using grapes with seeds)
1 small apple, small dice (do not peel)
2 tablespoons lemon juice, from 1/2 medium lemon
1/4″ piece bay leaf
2 whole cloves
1/2 star anise
Bring all ingredients to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, reduce heat to low, preferably over a flame tamer, and simmer, uncovered, 45-60 minutes. Stir occasionally and poke the grapes with a fork to help them break down. When ready, the grapes will be broken down and the liquid syrupy.
Remove bay leaf, cloves, and star anise (unless using a food mill). Blend with an immersion blender or in a food processor until uniform, but not completely smooth (unless you like that, in which case you should use a blender). If you are using Concords or other grape varietal with seeds, pass the stewed grapes through a food mill. You won’t need to remove the spices prior to using a food mill.
Pour into sterilized glass jars, seal, and refrigerate. I do not know if this recipe is appropriate for shelf stable canning. Just keep refrigerated for up to one month, or portion and freeze in airtight plastic containers for later use.