Incredible Homemade Wild Grape Freezer Jam — Sugar-free & Pectin-free!

By , September 29, 2011

Finally, here’s my recipe for the best wild (or “Concord”) grape jam ever! The flavor really is incredible.

I’m not a big jam-maker normally. And maybe that’s because nobody ever told me that jam doesn’t have to be complicated, the way most publications make it seem. This is the easiest jam you’ll probably ever make…because I discovered by accident that you don’t need either sugar or pectin to make it!

And because it’s “freezer jam” (meaning you store it in the freezer), you won’t be sterilizing jars or canning anything. You’ll just be cooking the grapes way down, allowing the natural sugar and pectin that’s already in the fruit to do the job for you. (To give you an idea of how much jam you’ll get, 9 lbs of grapes yields about 1 quart of jam.) Then, you eat it! And if you’re going to keep it around for a while, just pop it into the freezer to extend its life.

This jam is also what I use to make my delicious Concord Grape Fruit Leather. Try it sometime!


Wild Grape Freezer Jam

Wild, or “Concord,” grapes — nice and ripe. (That’s the only ingredient!)


1. De-stem & wash your grapes.

2. Put them into a large pot, and turn to medium-low heat. No need to add any water to the pot — they’ll provide plenty as they heat up and burst. Stir frequently to prevent burning at the bottom, and to get all the grapes heated up.

3. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until most grapes have burst. The unripe ones won’t burst.

Cook the grapes until they burst…

4. Turn heat down to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the grapes have cooked down a bit. Turn off the heat and let the grape slurry cool off a bit until it’s handle-able.

5. Strain your slurry through a mesh sieve with holes just small enough to prevent the seeds from going through. A food mill can also be used here; I bought a $30 Italian-made one from Crate & Barrel several years ago to use for this purpose. When it broke, I was actually sort of glad. I went right back to using the circular sieve pictured below, and this continues to be my tool of choice — it seems quicker and more direct, and the irritation of seeds jamming up the mill is not there. I prefer it.

This is the most labor-intensive part of the whole process because you’ll really want to stir a lot and press the pulp firmly against the sides of the sieve to separate all the liquid from the seeds and skins that will be left behind. Really scrape the pulp against the sieve so that you get some of the pulp pushed through the holes into the juice. This seems to help the jam thicken up. This is also a time when you could use a blender. Before pouring the grape slurry into your sieve, pulse it several times in your blender, then pour it into the sieve. You don’t want to blend up the seeds, but the blender does help break up the grapes and pulp, making it easier to strain.

After most of the juice is strained out of each batch of pulp in the sieve, I like to put the spoon down and get my hand in there to squeeze the rest of the juice out of the pulp-and-seeds.

Once this process is complete, you’ll have plenty of soupy liquid and the pile of seeds & skins will be surprisingly small.

Strain your grape slurry through a metal sieve. The large one is nice for big batches, but the small one is my favorite, and what I use even for large batches.

Strained liquid on the right, ready to cook down into jam. The skins & seeds are on the left, ready to be tossed.

6. Now that you’ve got just the liquid, you’re ready to cook it down into jam. Pour it back into the pot and turn the burner back onto low heat. Simmer on low, uncovered, until it’s thick like…jam! This will probably take several hours especially for a big batch. Stir it fairly frequently, especially toward the end when it sticks to the bottom of the pot more readily. And turn the heat down lower when it starts to thicken; you really don’t want to burn this stuff, because of how much effort you’ve put into it. Keep it at low heat. You’ll know it’s done when you can drag your spoon through the middle of it and the track doesn’t fill back in. (EDIT 9/26/16: I have been taking it off heat even before I can see the bottom of the pan while dragging my spoon through it. It has set up well once cooled & refrigerated. So when it’s been cooking down for hours, and looking bubbly and sorta thick, and the volume has been reduced to maybe about 1/3 of the original volume of strained, soupy liquid, try cooling it and it may set up fine for you. I’m going to do more experimentation with this.)

You know it’s done when your spoon track doesn’t fill back in.

7. That’s it! Cool & store in the fridge (it’ll last a couple weeks before starting to go moldy), or in the freezer for long-term storage. You can also can this using the water bath canning method. I have been canning this grape jam for the past several years and it is my preferred storage method. It does, however, tend to crystallize for me (must be the sugars) when it’s canned. I don’t mind, but if you don’t want that, you may just want to keep it in the freezer.


(Get your family to help you de-stem those grapes!)

ย *****

89 Responses to “Incredible Homemade Wild Grape Freezer Jam — Sugar-free & Pectin-free!”

  1. Aja says:

    You are hilarious, I love the last photo. Are wild grapes the same as concord grapes? When concord grapes show up here in New England, I go nuts and by them all and try to convince the grocer to hide them in the back and only let me buy them – seriously nutty. Once I get my hands on them, I should make jam too and prolong the obsession! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Lindsey says:

    Hi Aja! Thanks for mentioning Concord grapes — Yes they’re the same!! I added that to the post. They have the most incredible aroma (and taste) that I can see why you buy them all up!

  3. Deborah says:

    I am so excited about trying this. It reminds me of cooking cranberries for sauce. Does this work for other fruits too? Or do other fruits need pectin added? I’ve never made jam before. If other fruits need pectin could you add grapes to the pot instead?

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi Deb! I’m sure it would work with other fruits too, with no pectin needed — that’s my next project. ๐Ÿ™‚ In fact, I bet other fruits have more pectin than grapes! Something like, apples, say… they have lots!


  5. Jane says:

    They’re actually varieties and hybrids of our native Fox Grape, Vitis labruscca, cultivated throughout the NE…so says David Jacke in his Edible Forest Gardens. I have a great mass
    of some variety that provides shade on my south facing front porch in the summer. It’s got
    a load of grapes right now and I’m tempted to try your jam recipe Lindsey, but it’s also a main
    source of food for a returning pair of winter cardinals, so I think I’ll leave ’em. One other thought, I’m experimenting with doing fruit butters in a slow cooker, on low, overnight. Good results for pear butter, might work for grapes and help with potential for burning.

  6. Trish says:

    Wonderful! What a great recipe. Love the photos!xxx

  7. Lindsey says:

    Hi Jane,
    Interesting about our native Fox grape! I didn’t know! That book sounds cool — will have to put it on my library holds list!
    I love your fruit butters in the slow cooker. That is definitely going to be my next project, oh yes!


  8. Lindsey says:

    Heehee, thanks Trish!
    Happy Friday to you,

  9. pedritxes says:

    Hi friend,

    I love the idea of this jam, I will try it sounds really good and no sugar added ยกยกยกgood,good,goodยกยกยก

    thank you from Barcelona. Pedritxes

  10. Jill says:

    I just made a batch, and followed the directions. When I took it out of the fridge the next day it became hard. Is there a fix to this. Can I heat it back up to make the fruit leather?

  11. Lindsey says:

    Hi Jill,
    Yes feel free to heat it back up to make leather.
    Good luck to you!!

  12. Gabi says:

    I made several batches of this stuff this fall. Wonderful! Now my husband won’t eat any jam but this. After the first batch, I found that the consistency of the finished product was just a bit too firm. So, the next batch I took off the stove a little sooner, before it was quite so thick — perfect ! One batch I burned towards the end…as I had an emergency outside and did not return to the stove for long enough to have the bottom layer burn. I just transferred the grape slurry to another pot and finished the process. No problem. The only thing I regret is that the cooking down process results in a precious and small amount of product. I will not give any of it away. It’s gold!!! Thank you so much for this simple, healthy and most delicious way to eat my Concord grapes.

  13. Andreas says:

    The thought struck me that maybe a crock pot could be used for the cooking down stage. When grapes are in season I’ll have to give it a go.

  14. […] am a novice to jam making, so this sugar free, pectin free, freezer jam from The Herbgardner sounded like a nice simple option!ย We pretty much stuck to the tutorial, except our grapes were […]

  15. Heidi says:

    Just stumbled on this, but wondering, do you have to use wild grapes? We’re up in ND, and all I can get are grapes from the stores…..they come from CA, but that’s all I know. WIll that work still? Thanks.

  16. Karen Hoyt says:

    I love your site! We bought a farm with some old grapevines. This year is a bountiful harvest and I am making some jam! I cook low sodium and low sugar – You’re recipe is perfect.
    Now we’ll see if my cooking is.
    Thank you!

  17. Valerie Studer says:


  18. Lindsey says:

    Sure, you can use any grapes you have, though wild grapes are usually sweeter than those from the store (though not always, I’m sure!). Give it a try. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Lindsey says:

    Andreas, this is a great idea! I don’t see why this wouldn’t work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Heidi Hoye says:

    Hi Lindsay,

    I am making it right now! My sister and I picked the grapes in are backyard this morning, and they are on the stove right now. This (from what i’ve heard) is a great recipe. I tried to make this last year but had a different recipe, so I hope this works out.



  21. Laurie says:

    Thanks Lindsey for this recipe and your healthy food philosophy! I also want to try your grape leaves recipe next. ๐Ÿ™‚ Along with Heidi, I also have my grapes on the stove right now and I appreciate everyone’s comments, they are very helpful – thank you! Laurie

  22. Sue says:

    Just finished a batch of concord grape jam from wild, likely concord grapes all along the borders of my Massachusetts property. I used my thirty year old Oscar pulp expulsion juicer to process the grapes, which gave me an extraction from the pulp, skin and seeds, but still had to seive the juice as a few seed fragments centrifuged into the thick juice. These grapes are not highly palatable raw, so I did use sugar. Did you know that purple grapes are the basis for an early 20th century cure for cancer? The best part about these grapes is that I know they are 100% pesticide free. If you are considering purchasing grapes for making jam, be sure to get organic, as grapes are highly prone to problematic pesticide residues and you do want to include the health benefits of the skin. Finally, concord grapes are very high in pectin, thus you do not need to add pectin. Rhubarb is also very high in pectin, which is why we make strawberry-rhubarb jam. Yum!

  23. Jenny says:

    I think I kind of love you right now. I was in the middle of popping skins off about 8 lbs of grapes when I decided to search for a fruit leather recipe. That lead me here and I immediately stopped the back-breaking endeavor. Thank you for this recipe; I can’t wait to finish it and make some leathers.

  24. Lindsey says:

    Hi Sue,
    Wow, thank you for taking the time to write this great comment! Don’t you just love using wild things off your property, and boosting your health in the process. I didn’t know specifically about the anticancer properties of grapes but have long felt that this grape jam must have some magical health benefits — it’s so concentrated.
    Enjoy your jam!

  25. Lindsey says:

    Hey Jenny! My god, thank you for discovering my recipe — it pains me to think of you skinning EIGHT POUNDS of grapes. That would be classified as torture I think.
    I hope the leather turns out for you because it is awesome stuff. Definitely a treat to savor.


  26. Laurie says:

    My wild grapes are pretty tart. You don’t add any sugar or sweetener at all?

  27. Lindsey says:

    Hi Laurie,
    Well, if they’re really pretty tart, I think what I’d do is go through the whole process and cook up just a small test batch using your grapes. If the end result is still too tart, then do add sugar or honey or your sweetener of choice to the main batch.

  28. Connie Hubbard says:

    My many pound of grapes fermented before I got to them, but I continued with the jam-making process anyway. I added about a cup of palm sugar to the pulp-juice mix in hopes of overriding the winey taste. I plan to make your leather out of it, and so far it seems it will taste just fine.

  29. scott says:

    hi miss lindsey 1st off thanks for the wonderful sounding simple sugar free-ish recipe going to make some for a diabetic friend and me to lol all these other crazy recipes call for 5 -7 cups sugar i guess cuz they are jelly’s tho hun ? a question i have is about storing if you do the hole boil jar stuff can you store them longer ? i guess it does not matter cuz you can freeze this version though right cant wait to try will keep you up to date thanks lindsey for a healthy alternative to 5 cups of sugar id rather eat grape jame then sugar jam with grape flavor lol

  30. scott says:

    i also like the sounds of this recipe do you think it would be ok to kinda mix the recipes i would like to use the skins also i think its the only real difference in the 2 recipes i have never made jam or jelly before so a bit nervous to screw it up thanks again i will post results when completed

  31. Lindsey says:

    Hi Scott,
    Yeah I’m sure you could do the canning thing. I haven’t done that with the grape jam, but seems to me no reason why you couldn’t. I just freeze mine cause it’s easier.
    I love your honest assessment of most jellies out there — sugar jelly with grape flavor! That’s hilarious, and completely true. I’d much rather eat real grape jam too ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Lindsey says:

    Hi again Scott!
    OH my god, why peel the skins????? “Absolutely essential”?? Woah, man, not in MY book. ‘Silly waste of time’ would be my honest opinion of that step. But all of that aside, yeah, feel free to combine the recipes! ๐Ÿ™‚


  33. scott says:

    lindsey phew omg gurl what a task lol i made both if youd dont have a food mill try to at least have a big metal sieve i only have a small one, day’s turn into nights lol it was a work out they both are very yummy the one with the skins if i did again id puree them after i cook them but they are both good thanks for sharing yours

  34. Natalie says:

    Hi from Japan! I ran a race yesterday and one of the take-home prizes happened to be concord grapes. With more than 4 pounds and only so many people to share them with, I found your recipe last night when searching for simple grape jam recipes. Thanks for all the pictures and details. It was very helpful as I made my way through my first-ever batch of jam. It’s a bit runny–I was getting impatient at the end and wanted to be done–more like jelly, but the taste is fantastic! So sweet that I would never want to add more sugar to it. Looking forward to sharing it with friends and trying more of your recipes in the future. ๐Ÿ˜€

  35. Lindsey says:

    Wooooo — Japan! A prizewinning of grapes? That is adorable!
    I’m glad your jam turned out well — isn’t it glorious stuff?

    I’d love to go to Japan — do you have any tips or favorite places?

  36. Natalie says:

    It was my first time running in that race–the steep hills and constant rain was brutal enough…having grapes waiting for me though was a great reward! I passed the jam around to friends and it was a hit! They couldn’t believe there is no added sugar. I told them repeatedly, “just the grapes!”

    Yes, yes, yes. Please come!

    Seeing the temples and their gardens, shrines, and beautiful mountains in Kyoto is a must. However, Nagano, where I live, has fantastic scenery of the Japanese Alps and a wonderful system of agriculture. In my small village, every inch of flat land is used for rice, veggies, or some other crop. It’s inspiring.

  37. Lilian says:

    Hi, so I followed the recipe, but my jam came out very hard. It is not spreadable at all. Is there anything I can do to it to make it usable? Thanks!

  38. Karen Johnson says:

    What do you use to store the jam in the freezer? Glass, plastic, etc?

  39. Kendra says:

    I just tried this recipe today as my first attempt at jelly of any kind. My “jam” ended up being pretty hard, almost like caramel. Did I overcook it? I assumed that “simmering it until the spoon track doesn’t fill in” meant that it wouldn’t fill in at all. Maybe should I have stopped cooking it when it was slow to fill in? I’m really at a loss at what happened but it’s inedible. ๐Ÿ™

  40. Elspeth says:

    Hi Lindsay

    I have an amazing set of pots I borrowed from a friend (I’ll send another message once I get the name of it) – I believe it’s a juicer of some sort. It has three pots stacked one ontop of the other. The top pot has holes in it around the bottom half like a strainer; the second half has a tube running out the side and collects all the juice of the fruit from the top pot, and the bottom pot holds the water which is kept at a boil while the juices are being ‘sucked’ from the fruit.I placed handfuls of concord grapes – stems, leaves and all, into the top container and waited for the juice to run! It is very easy; however, what comes out does not have any pulp – it is very clear. My question is whether or not I can just now cook up the juice – maybe add some pectin? – and then freeze? I have made 50 jars of jelly and every time I start a batch it bothers me more and more that I have to add so much white sugar. Will the juice become jam or jelly without the denseness the pulp provides? Looking forward to hearing from you – thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Barbara says:

    It’s a bumper grape crop this year here in Wisconsin. Think I picked 30 lbs. and there are still that many left on the vines. Cooked those things for nearly two days and they still didn’t thicken, so I finally divided the huge pot into two smaller batches & added some instant pectin. Thickened up nicely in the fridge over time. Have lots of little 1/2 cup containers in the freezer. Made leather for the granddaughter too – she loves it!

  42. Karen says:

    Just picked all the remaining concord grapes off of the vines. There has been enough frost now to make the organic grapes so sweet… now will try making jam your way..
    It is November 4th and if you pick the concord grapes too soon in the fall they will be sour. You need to wait until a hard frost for sure..

  43. Lindsey says:

    Hi Elspeth,
    Cool machine-thing!
    The juice may not thicken and you may need to add pectin, but do cook it way down first and see. You’ll have to just go by look and taste and wing it.

    Hope it turns out!

  44. Lindsey says:

    Hi Kendra,
    I don’t know what happened. My first thought would be to add water and see if you can thin it out. If not, perhaps the heat was too high on the stove? I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you had envisioned. That’s frustrating.

  45. Lindsey says:

    Karen — glass usually, but plastic would be fine too of course. I shy away from plastic usually but in this case it’s frozen so I can’t imagine a whole lot of chemical-leaching taking place — PLUS there is the advantage that plastic will not break in the freezer, as sometimes glass does!

  46. Lindsey says:

    Hi Lilian,
    Try adding water maybe?

  47. Lindsey says:

    Natalie — OOOOOOOO! Your little snippet of what Japan sounds incredible! I MUST go there. When I am feeling better health-wise, it is a goal of mine. I think I would just love it.

    I’m so glad your jam turned out, and that you had enough to share with friends who could appreciate it too!
    Thanks for your follow-up comment!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  48. Kelli says:

    Hello! I’m wondering if anyone has successfully used a food mill for this jam? My concern is that it would also leave the skins behind, and it sounds like you don’t want to do that since the skins are an important part of the taste and texture, so thought I’d check in before I tried it with my food mill. Thanks!

  49. Emily Gossmn says:

    Working on my third batch!! Love this recipe, though this last batch was a little more than previous, so, that couple of hours has turned into 3 and a half. I made both jam and leather, grandkids love the grape leather!

  50. Lindsey says:

    I need to update this post, as I have since bought a food mill, and it works fabulously. I’d highly recommend the mill! The skins do get ground up for the most part and become part of the jam, if you’ve got it set on a small/fine setting.

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