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Have you ever considered making grape juice at home? As a kid, I remember my mother making grape jelly and grape juice from Concord grapes. My Grandmother had a huge old Concord grape vine on the farm that no one but my mother ever seemed to want anything to do with. We'd pick grapes by the bushel basket full and take them home and make good stuff with them.
Very few of my grapes ever go to waste.
Making Concord grape juice is easy, and the flavor is way better than any store bought grape juice. As a added plus there's no preservatives or chemicals added. Just grapes, water and sugar. Here's Mom's grape juice recipe, with directions for canning grape juice too.
The first step is to remove the grapes from the stems. Throw out stems, leaves, bugs and any grapes that are green, dried up, or have black spots on them. Wash the grapes gently to remove any unwanted stuff from the skins. Be careful not to crush the grapes, or you'll loose some of the best flavor.
Place cleaned grapes in a large pan (6-8 quart at least). Add enough water to just cover the grapes. Bring the grapes and water to a simmer, and maintain the light simmer for about 15 minutes. Try not to bring them to an actual boil, because they can boil over pretty easily. You can add a small bit of butter margarine or cooking oil - 1/4 teaspoon will do - to prevent foaming over.
As the grapes simmer, you will see the skins split, and the insides will come out. Once you can't recognize anything that looks like a grape, they're pretty well done, so remove them from the heat.
NOTE - Grape juice does stain (sometimes permanently), so be careful to not splatter any if you can avoid it over the next few steps. Keep a wet paper towel or old dish cloth handy to wipe up splatters. The quicker you wipe them up , the less likely they are to stain.
Place a large strainer over an even larger bowl or cooking pan, and gently ladle the juice and pulp into the strainer. Use a spoon to move the pulp away from the inside of the strainer and to keep the juice flowing. If you don't, the pulp will clog all the holes in the strainer and stop the juice from coming out. Dump the remaining pulp from the strainer after each filling. I put the pulp on my compost pile or directly into my garden.
OPTIONAL - some people
like to strain the juice a second time through a cheese cloth to remove
the tiny bits of pulp that did pass through the strainer, to make
clearer juice. I don't normally do this, but it doesn't hurt anything.
Once it is canned, the pulp will gradually settle to the bottom of the
canning jars, and you can either pour to juice off the pulp when
serving, or shake it up like orange juice. The pulp won't harm you at
all - and is more than likely good for you.
Once you have separated the juice from the pulp, place the juice back on the stove and bring it to a low simmer. At this time, you will have to sweeten the juice some. Since sugar content varies quite a bit in grapes from year to year, you have to sweeten to your own taste.
Normally 1-2 cups of sugar per gallon of grape juice will do. Depending on summer weather conditions, the grapes may have a very high sugar content, and you may not have to sweeten at all, but don't count on that happening very often.
Add the sugar a little at a time, and taste, until it's right for your taste. I usually add a half cup at a time until it's right.
I haven't tried it (yet), but I have heard of people using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar. If anyone has tried this, I'd love to hear from you about how it turned out.
Wash and sterilize canning jars, rings and new dome lids. You can use pints to can grape juice, but it's an awfully small serving. This juice can be refrigerated after it is opened, so I can my juice in quarts.
-Sterilize dome lids in a pan of boiling water.
-Bring water bath canner to a rolling boil
-Fill clean sterile canning jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.
-Apply lids and rings to hand tightness (as tight as you can using just your hands)
-Place jars in water bath canner and process for 15 minutes.
-It's rare for a jar to not seal, but if one doesn't, you can refrigerate it, and you have a trial jar for tasting right away. Not always a bad thing!
Making grape juice at home from fresh concord grapes is easier than you might think. You can use this same method to make other types of fruit juice as well - I've made juice from berries (blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries) and cherries in the past. You could also can or freeze juice made like this without adding sugar, and use it later to make Jelly.
Concord Grapes are easy to grow, require little care, and after they are established, are highly productive. If you grow your own concord grapes, or have access to someone elses, try making some juice. Most kids love it (mine sure does!) and so do adults. Knowing how to make your own fruit juice, is just another small step along the path to becoming more self sufficient.