The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Grape Jam Recipe

more grapesAbout fifteen years ago my mother travelled to New York. As an arty, fashion-conscious type, she enjoyed the galleries, the cafés the shops. She returned with marvellous presents but the one thing that has stuck in my mind was her description of grape jam, or “jelly” as it is referred to in America.

Last Sunday, Anne Mary and I both decided to make grape jam. This was a first for me. A mutual friend had sent round bulging carrier bags of grapes to both our houses. We conferred on the grape/sugar ratio and discussed the major problem. Pips. Anne Mary was going to remove them as she made the jam. I was going to simmer the grapes, with the optimistic hope that the pips would float to the surface before I made the jam. We both reckoned that the pips were important as they contain pectin. Jam needs pectin to set.

A few hours later, we compared notes. Anne Mary had spent over three hours skimming off pips and had ended up with a fragrant delicate jam. But this had been a marathon that she would never repeat. She vowed that she’d stick to grape jelly in future.

Chez Cottage Smallholder, I got bored with skimming off the pips and sieved my cooked grapes, so I lost the skins. To beef up the jam a bit I added some chopped pears. I made the mistake of using Jam Sugar (this has added pectin so the jam only needs to boil for a few minutes). This ruined any grape fragrance. Although the pear pieces tasted good the overall taste was nasty. A horrid cheap sweet flavour. My jam had taken hours to make, turning the jars as it set so that the pear pieces hung evenly in the jam. I tottered to bed at four in the morning. Danny woke to a spoonful of the stuff and after breakfast the whole batch went down the loo.

Determined not to be beaten by this, I resolved that next year I would simmer the grapes and remove the pips when the fruit was cold. I would then add the sugar and make the jam. Like gardening, I find seasonal cooking is exciting but all too often peppered with disasters. If this happens I plan an alternative method the next day, as most of my cooking takes place late at night. If the ingredients are from the last harvest, I plan for next year. Planning a year ahead is always fun as it is so far ahead that one can be a bit more experimental. It has that future generation feel.

Yesterday I opened my front door and found a second carrier bag of grapes, delivered by the same generous friend. Having bored Danny with next year’s grape jam recipe, I had no choice but to try my planned 2007 method. It worked very well. It did take half an hour to remove the pips from the kilo of simmered grapes. But the jam was so quick to set at exactly 9 minutes after the start of the rolling boil. The whole process was a doddle and produced a delicious grape jam. Keeping the skins makes a big difference. Just simmered they taste like grape skins, boiled for nine minutes they become the essential tangy element that magically transforms this jam into something rather special.

Update on October 28 2006:

I tried another method for removing the pips, as I was given 14 kilos of grapes yesterday. I’m only going to turn half into jam but couldn’t face the 3.5 hour stint of depipping seven kilos. Having washed and picked over the fruit, I put two deep stockpots side by side. I Picked up a handful of grapes in each hand, put my hands deep into the first stockpot and squeezed hard. The pips and flesh burst out if the skins. I transferred the grapes into my left hand and cleaned the skins between the fingers of my right hand, transferring the skins into stockpot two.

This has a satisfactory squelchy feel and is a much faster way of removing the pips. You end up with a stockpot full of pips and flesh and a stockpot full of skins. Add the water to the skins and simmer for about twenty minutes. Simultaneously simmer the flesh and pips until they have separated. Then sieve the flesh and pips (using a course seive) and add the flesh to the skins and proceed to point four in the method.

Fiona’s 2007 Grape Jam Recipe (Grape Jelly U.S.A.)


  • 1 kilo of grapes, washed and stalks removed
  • 500 ml of water
  • 500 g white granulated sugar


  1. Wash and remove stalks from grapes. Discard any rotten ones. Put grapes in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add the water.
  2. Slower method for depipping: Bring slowly to boiling point and immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Simmer until the grapes burst (about half an hour). Allow to cool completely.When cool, remove the grapes with a slotted spoon and put them into a sieve over a large bowl. A lot of pips will have dropped to the bottom of the pan. Remove as many of these as you can with a spoon and pour the rest of the grapes into the sieve. Take a small handful of grapes at a time and rub them though your fingers. Discard the pips and put the pip-free skins and pulp into the bowl with the juice. Be warned, this may take some time.
  3. Faster method for depipping: see update above.
  4. Pour the juice, skins and pulp into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Turn down the heat immediately and add the sugar. Bring slowly to the boil stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Allow to boil and when boiling hard set the timer for 5 minutes (this is a rolling boil).
  6. Test for set at 2 minute intervals. When set, use a ladle and funnel to pour into warm sterilised jars. Label when cold and store in a dark dry space.

Tips and tricks:

  • Jam “set” or “setting point”?
    Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method:
    Before you start to make the jelly, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). Return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and this leaves a crinkly mark.
  • My jam hasn’t set properly. What can I do?
    If you think that the jelly has not set properly, you can reboil it the next day. The boiling reduces the water in the jelly. I have done this in the past. Ideally you should try for the right set the first time.
  • How do I sterilise jars and lids?
    The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c/140c for fan assisted. When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Teresa

    Glad that this worked for you. It’s a delicate jam and we love it on toast in the morning.

  2. I just made a batch of jam with this recipe this morning and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Ann

    Your grape jam sounds like the answer! I haven’t made it or a couple of years but even though I love the taste the abiding memory is that it went on a bit (de piping wise!).

    I’ll try your method next time, thanks!

  4. Ann McKinley

    Hi – with all the rain this Summer ( in South africa) I had lots of grapes and fleetingly feeling earth motherish headed to the internet for a foolproof jam recipe. Tried the final version, including the de-pipper ( the drill was in reverse, so took a while, I never claimed to be technically minded!)At first attempt my jam refused to set. Next day poured the jam back into pot and boiled for ages till it did set….a little too well and rather gluey. Hmmm got bored with this but a few days later looked at the remaining grapes – there were too many for my pot. These were de-twigged, washed, dried and loitering in the fridge. 1) put them into a pot on the stove as they were and heated very gently till the juice started to run. 2) helped them along a bit with the potato masher. 3) Sieved them to remove skin and pips. 4) put them in a glass dish with a guessing of sugar and microwaved on high 4 minutes at a time. Stir.5) added a bit more sugar for good luck. 6) microwaved a bit more….The most jammy grape jam I have ever made! The right consistency and great taste! I won’t be adding any water to my grape jam again!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Fiona,

    I am sure that it would work with seedless grapes. Jim’s jam clearly worked having deseeded his grapes (see comments above).

    Believe me, the jam is wonderful but the deseeding had me on my knees!

  6. Hi All,
    I can’t wait to try this recipe. Has anyone tried with seedless grapes to eliminate the depipping ordeal?

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jim,

    Your idea is absolutely brilliant!

    I love our grape jam but you need the patience of Job (and his brother, sister and dog) to get through the seed removal process.

    Thank you so much for developing an answer to the problem and for bothering to drop by and share this great tip. Really appreciated.

  8. Jim Gibson

    I tried your recipe for grape jam(jelly) and found it very nice. the task of de-pipping however was mindnumbing and I put on my thinking cap and came up with this method. I bought a cheap basin and drilled as many holes as possiblein the bottom, the size of the hole must be large enough to let a pip through. I then sat this over a slightly larger basin put in the grapes and started squeezing and rubbing the pulp over the holes in a few minutes I had a basin with skins and a basin with pips and flesh….and on with the recipe

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    This jam is excellent but a bit of a nightmare to make on account of the pips.

  10. I can’t wait to taste the finished product now that you have sent me a sample. I’ll let you know my verdict, but I’m sure that it will be delicious.
    Sara from farmingfriends

Leave a Reply to Letitia Shen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,235,793 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder