Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grape Juice

One of my earliest memories is of my preschool teacher taking my class on a field trip where we made grape juice. I can't remember much about it except for the divine smell of the ripe Concords hanging on their vines and the satisfying experience of being able to sample the sweet product of our efforts. I will never forget the rich flavor and the sweet taste left on my tongue.

I've kept this memory for over 20 years never again experiencing grape juice that could compare to that of my preschool field trip. My husband thinks it's sad that I can remember things like this. But for some reason food leaves a lasting impression on me.

Imagine my surprise 2 years ago when I was coming back from a walk in the new neighborhood my husband and I had just moved into when I got a whiff of it. I looked around, took a few more deep breaths of the crisp autumn air and I was certain. 

Grapes, and not just any grapes, my preschool grapes were somewhere nearby. A little investigation proved that they happened to be along the fence of my new next-door neighbor. This was the beginning. I had never canned anything before, but at that moment I knew I needed to have grape juice from those grapes. 

Over the next few weeks I began hatching a plan to convince my new neighbor to give me her grapes. Luckily, it didn't take any master planning. One day, I mentioned how great they smelled. She told me there were more than enough for what she wanted so would I like the rest? oh and would I like her to teach me how to can the grape juice too? Music to my ears. 

So I jumped right in, got some old mason jars from my mom and the result was everything I could have wished for. Smooth, rich, sweet chilled concord bliss.

3 years later, I still can hardly wait for the first frost to come so the grapes will be ready to pick. My mom even caught the bug last year after tasting the end result. (The first year I felt like I had to ration my jars but the next year I was less stingy). My mom has always made her own jelly but last summer she drove all over the valley collecting people's unwanted concord grapes and ending up canning over 100 quarts of grape juice!

I recommend starting small. Let's start with one batch. Oh and by-the-way, it is soooo much easier if you can get your hands on a steam juicer. It's possible to make grape juice in a stock pot, but then you have to worry about straining the juice through cheesecloth. With a steam juicer, it does all the work for you.

Go pick some grapes, you might be surprised how many old neighborhoods have grapes that no one wants. So ask around. If all else fails, you can buy some. The key to good grape juice though is to only use Concords. The lighter red and white varieties just won't provide the flavor needed to make a yummy juice they will turn out too sweet.



Wash and de-stem the grapes. Put as many into the steamer as will fit with the lid on. For the steamer I use, one full batch will make enough juice for 5-6 quarts.


Assemble steamer. Turn your stove to high heat and steam the grapes. The skins will begin to burst and release their juices.

You can check how much juice you have buy lifting up the top portion of the juicer to see how high the juice is in the reservoir.



Start heating your new lids and sterilizing your bottles. Do not boil your lids, you just need to soften the gummy seal by warming them up. The grape steaming process takes from 30 min to 1 hour.

Line up your sterilized bottles so they are easy to get to.

Once your juice is almost to the top of the reservoir and you are ready to fill your jars, carefully place a bottle with a funnel one under the spout hose and release the clamp. Obvious but necessary warning: the liquid coming out of the steamer is boiling hot. Hold the jar with a towel so you don't burn yourself as the bottle fills up. Leave 3/4- 1 inch head space. (I usually dump my first jar back into the steamer over the grapes. I think it helps the top layer of grapes breakdown and evens out the flavor.)

Wipe the rim of your jar with a wet, hot rag or paper towel. Grab on of your warm lids with a magnetic lid lifter and place on jar with metal band.



Screw on until finger tight. You don't need to, nor should you go crazy and try to screw them on as tight as they will go. Finger tight is fine. Set aside to cool and repeat til all juice is gone. You can strain the remaining grape flesh over a bowl and get almost a full quart before tossing the pulp in the garbage. You can add that juice to your next batch and can it with those bottles, or you can heat to boiling and can it individually if you are only going to make 1 batch.

Mmm... don't they look delectable? Stick one in the fridge right away and you'll know what I mean. Sweet childhood memories just as I remembered.

5 comments:

  1. I testify that this grape juice really is divine! Provident Princess brought me a grape juice gift and it was just wonderful. A thick sweet drink that was all new to me. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. You're welcome Kelly. I'm glad you guys liked it. I'm excited for you to grow your own grape vines this year.

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  3. I know this post is old, but I'm so glad it's here as my new house has lots of grape vines and I need to process them this week! Your tutorial is the easiest to follow that I've found. Thank you!

    I know we had this grape juice growing up, but I've forgotten how to prepare it to drink. It seems like my mom always added a quart of water, a cup of sugar, and lots of ice. What do you do?

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    1. Hi, you're so lucky to have grapes! I know some people like to put sugar in their juice but I found the concord grapes are really sweet just by themselves. If you have white grapes or red grapes you might want to add some sugar but I'd taste it first to see. I'd rather avoid added sugars if i could. Good luck!

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    2. Oh also we fill our cups up full of ice before pouring it in straight. I dillute it for my kids 1:1 with water but that's just because I don't think they need that much juice. Sometimes I dillute it for me too if I feel like its really thick but you'll just have to go by taste I think.

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