“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.” – E.B. White
As I dread the time-consuming hours of my first notable Concord grape harvest, I find myself opening the freezer door and staring at the tidy, ready-made containers of grape juice concentrate taunting me. Taunting me, I say!
“Look at us. We’re pre-made! Just open up the lid, Stupid.”
Alas, the grape bunches on my backyard vine hang lower and lower everyday. “Pick us now, lady. Don’t let us go to waste!”
I am apparently a glutton for punishment, because those new grapes WILL be transformed into juice. But, it’s truly not a difficult process. Honestly, I don’t even need to take off my shoes and smush my feet into a bucket full of the little buggers. After some net research, I’ve found two ways to do it quite easily. Maybe you can make your own juice now, too!
Simmer on the Stove
If you need that sweet liquid right now, then simmer a bowl full of grapes on your stove for 10 minutes. (Hint: The grapes are sweetest after the first frost.) Remove your grapes from the stems. Throw out any green or shriveled grapes and wash them. After you pour the prepared grapes into your saucepan, break their skins with a potato masher. As they simmer, mash more every few minutes. When cooled, pour your saucepan concoction through a sieve to catch all the crud you don’t need. Put it in your juice pitcher. Add in at least half of a cup of sugar to taste, and add about the same amount of water as the grape liquid you simmered on the stove. You’ll need to adjust the water and sugar to your taste. The warm juice isn’t tasty so let it sit in the fridge before drinking.
The key is to be aware that the real grape juice tastes much more robust than anything you’ve bought in a container or can. As your juice has no preservatives, you’ll want to drink this is a few days for the best flavor.
Give those Grapes a Bath
Now, if you’re more on the patient side, then consider water bathing the juice in quart mason jars. Sterilize your jars and lids. Add two cups of grapes (separated from the vines, washed, and any stems or unripe/bad grapes thrown out) to each jar. Fill up to the jar’s top with boiling water. My online research has shown people have major opinions on what is the preferable sugar content. Some people suggest adding no sugar at all because the steam brings out the grapes’ sweetness. While the recipes usually call for 1/2 cup of sugar, many online forum visitors swear that 1/4 cup is the magic quantity. For myself, I’m going with the 1/2 cup suggestion, and I will water down my pitcher of grape juice later on if I need to.
Wipe off any sugar crystals from the mouth of each jar before adding the lid and ring. Water bathe these jars for 10 minutes. After you take them out, cover the jars with a towel (to prevent them getting drafts) and don’t move for 24 hours. Wait about three weeks before opening your jars after you store them in a cool, dark place. However, the best flavor apparently is reached six months after water bathing.