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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Can I make a jam from grape skins, or do I need pulp too?
—Leigh P., Bradford, N.H.
If you have a pile of grape skins, I’m thinking you have pomace, the leftover skins, seeds and stems from winemaking. I’ve written before about all the different ways that pomace can be used, from being distilled into spirits, ground into flour, turned into ethanol or simply converted into mulch.
But I’ve never heard of pomace jam, and when I asked my favorite jam expert, he wisely told me, “You can make can basically make jam out of anything, but that doesn’t mean you should.” First off, grape jam is usually made from grapes like Concord, which are not winemaking grapes. That’s because of Concord’s intense aroma and sweetness. Grapes for juicing and jam are different from table grapes which are more sturdy and crunchy, and those are different from wine grapes, which are more delicate and thicker-skinned. I don’t recommend trying to make wine from table grapes.
But jam from wine grapes? And just the skins? The skins are going to be more bitter and tannic than the pulp inside. Moreover, the seeds would be terribly bitter. If you’re going to do this, then you’ll need to find a way to separate out the seeds and stems. If you can, I’d recommend pureeing the skins to extract more flavors and cooking them down with maybe an equal volume of sugar as a first try. You might end up with some subtle grape flavors. Good luck!
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