For Southern Italian-style black wine grape marmalade
1 case (36 pounds) of "Alcante" black-colored grapes [used in North America to make "red" wine]*
8 cups sugar
N.B. To make smaller amounts of this marmalade, simply adjust the proportions, keeping in mind that the pounds of grape represented includes the stems: for 18 lbs grape, add 4 1/4 cups sugar; for 9 lbs grape add 2 1/4 cups sugar; for 4 1/2 lbs grape add 1 1/8 cups sugar; for 2 1/4 lbs grape add 3/4 cup sugar....
* 1 case of grapes (36 pounds) makes about 16 Masson jars (8 oz. each) of marmalade.
1. Wash all the grapes (under cold tap water).
2. Let the washed grapes drip for half an hour in large colanders (to remove excess water from the grapes).
3. De-seed all the grapes (invite 6 friends to help out as this will take hours to this work). P.S. One can de-seed the grapes by first removing them from their stems, then pinching each grape into a container, and then placing the seeds in one container, and the de-seeded pulp in another container. Or, one can de-seed the grapes by first removing the individual grapes from their stems, then cutting the individual grapes in half, and then removing the seeds with a knife or your fingers from each grape. Pinching the individual grapes takes less time, but one does end up with more unwanted seeds than by using the second method.
4. Place the de-seeded grape pulp in a strainer and drain out the excess juice, making sure to collect the juice. P.S. Technically, one could add the excess juice to the grape pulp, but then it would take a lot longer for the pulp to reduce. One can expect 4 to 6 cups of surplus juice from the de-seeded grape and about 2 to 4 cups of surplus juice from the container with the pits. The excess grape juice can be used to make "musto cotto" [see recipe].
5. Place the de-seeded grape pulp [without the excess grape juice or the seeds] in a very large cooking pan (about 32 inches high and 16 inches wide). If one does not have a very large enough cooking pan, divide the pulp in two, and place them in two separate cooking pans. Place the divided grape pulp in two large sauce pots (8-10 l).
6. Throw out the grape seeds -- they can NOT be used in the jam. The seeds, of course, can be recycled -- used in compost etc.
7. Add 8 cups of sugar to the very large cooking pot. Or divide the sugar in half and place in each pot used.
8. Bring to the black wine grape pulp to a boil and then simmer 6 to 8 hours, stirring often. Do not cover the pot (or pots). The pulp can stick to the bottom, so it is important to frequently stir the pot, and make sure it is not burning down.
9. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by 1/3 the original amount. The resulting mixture should be thick, not liquidy as the mixture will not coagulate after it is cooled. What you see is what you get.
10. Turn off the heat.
11. Immediately place the reduced warm marmalade in individual Masson glass jars (6 to 8 oz. each) and screw on their tops. From a case of Alcante grapes [36 pounds], one can expect to get about 14 to 16 jars of marmalade. [P.S. Some cooks prior to using the Masson glass jars heat up the tops of the jars in boiling water, wipe them and then screw them on; some cooks also heat up the glass Masson jars in a low oven (about 100 degrees F) for a few minutes prior to placing the marmalade in them, but this is not actually necessary].
12. Store the glass Masson jars in a cold room, or if one does not have a cold room, place them in the fridge (in the crisper).
13. Please note this marmalade tastes best after it has aged for a few weeks. So, keep the jars in the cold room or fridge for 6 to 8 weeks (Do not open) and then one can start serving the marmalade. The taste is exquisite.
The photo was taken by Mary Melfi, who along with her sister, Sue, her Zia Rosina, her cousin Maggie and Maggie's husband, Jerry, and last but not least her cousin Pauline spent over 4 hours de-seeding the Alcante grapes and surprisingly having a great deal of fun doing this tedious work. It was cousin, Pauline, however, who actually made the grape jam [seen in the photo], as she was the one who later spent hours by the stove, stirring the pulp, so it won't stick to the bottom and burn. Pauline was also the one who took the trouble to write down the recipe her mother, Nunziatina Fresco, and her aunt, Rosina Melfi, brought over to Canada from Casacalenda, Molise, Italy. And lucky they did too as black wine grape marmalade is not commercially available in most cities in North America. Grape jelly is available, but that's a pale imitation to the "real" thing. Grape jelly is to wine grape marmalade as are canned fruits to fresh fruits -- that's how big the difference is. Can't speak for others, but those in the Melfi-Fresco clan give a two thumbs up for home-made wine grape marmalade and a thumbs down to store-bought grape jelly. So, for those who have the time and patience, making home-made wine grape marmalade is a fun project....