I bought some Thomson's cause Lowe's had them for cheap-cheap today - but I'd like to grow something more interesting, and looking at something like the Raintree catalogue is just overwhelming with the grape selection! The only things I want grapes for is fresh eating and making jam. Any suggestions? Can all grapes be made into jam? All the categories like wine, dessert, etc. are confusing me :)
Good grapes for jam?
Traditionally, Concord grapes are used for juice and jam. But they're not great for eating, since they have super thick skin and seeds. I always liked them as a kid, but they're a lot of work to eat.
Most of your "normal" varieties of grapes (like you'd see in the grocery store) are great for eating but not really suitable for juice/jam. I would go for a red grape, something suitable for wine would have a good flavor. Anything that is listed as a good juicer, actually, should make a decent jam.
You are looking for "slip-skin" grapes, like Concord and other varieties. These have deep flavors in their skins and are more often seeded, though a few are "seedless". Any grape *can* be made into jam, but think about the flavor of white grape juice, and that's pretty much what you get with grapes that are best for fresh eating. Not all that interesting when cooked, even though they are sweet and delicious fresh. Conversely, grapes like Concord are really good fresh eating right off the vine, at least for some of us that don't mind just a bit of tannins in the skin and some seeds.
The jam I make with my seeded Concords is amazing. Yum. I do jelly first, then I take the pulp and run it through the squeezo to make some jam with what's left. Yum, yum, yum. I'm totally planning to take cuttings from my established Concord vine so I can have more throughout the yard.
For fresh eating, I've been looking at Reliance or Thompson or something else that's seedless, but haven't planted/tried any of those yet. My climate narrows down the choices a bit, but yeah.