29 December 2011

Homemade Grape Juice

I love grape juice.  It is my favorite of all the fruit juices.  I'm just not an orange juice person.  And if you're willing to put in a little time and effort, you can have grape juice for free.  Storebought juices are a) expensive and b) full of preservatives and mystery chemicals and flavor packets and really, who knows what else.

So to start out, you need grapes.  My grandma graciously donated her concord grapes, because she has adequate supplies of grape juice to last her for another year.
The next step is the uber-laborious destemming, sorting and washing.  For which you will want to recruit help.
Next, take those grapes and put them in the biggest pot you own.  DO NOT OVERFILL IT.  Grape juice that boils over is not fun to clean up.  This is a voice of experience.  So, fill it maybe 3/4 of the way with grapes, then cover them with water.  GENTLY SIMMER until the grapes look spent.  See photos for details.
Now the messy part.  These bad boys need to be strained.  I used a pillow case.  If you like your grape juice to be clear, you might want to find something more finely woven.  I hung the pillow cases from a kayak paddle hung across the two counters in our tiny kitchen.  Be creative.  You can make this work.  Wear old clothes though.
Alright, so if you're paying attention to details, you'll see I have some jars with sugar in them.  I think it was like half a cup.  I don't really know.  It's to taste.  But, having opened a couple jars, it wasn't enough.  When you can the juice, I think something happens and it loses some sweetness.  So add extra sugar.  And then fill up your jars with juice.  Since it's juice, you don't need much headspace.  Check out those 2-qt jars!  I got them at an auction.  They are perfect for juice.
Then can it!  I had some jars where the juice was still pretty hot, they only needed to be processed for 15 - 20 minutes, but some of the juice got cold and I think I might have processed them maybe half an hour.  If you are going to can grape juice, please use a real recipe because I don't want to be responsible for canning gone wrong.  That being said, it is juice, so you can't really OVER process it.  Alternatives to canning it include drinking it, giving it away, and turning it into wine (probably not with concord grapes though).
I started this project after work on Friday night.  We were up canning until 1am.  Food preservation is not for the faint of heart, but mid winter when you open a jar of last summer's grape juice, the satisfaction will make up for it.  I promise!  I know that what I'm eating is local, natural, and VERY inexpensive.
And delicious! :)

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