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I forgot to take a picture of the grapes before I started making the juice, so this is a generic photo. I was enthusiastically mashing the grapes, before I remembered that I should have snapped a photo while they were still round and in lovely little bunches. Sigh. So this is a photo from Microsoft Office, courtesy of Fotolia.
Making grape juice is a very simple process. The method below is even simpler because the juice will be frozen instead of canned. To be fair, canning is not a difficult process, but even though my mother and grandmother canned produce, I have always chosen freezing.
The ingredient list is pretty short:
Red Grapes *see note below
Water (preferably filtered)
The equipment list is not much longer:
Large stock pot or pan
Potato masher or other item for mashing
Strainer(s) (I use two different sizes)
Bowl or pan for collecting juice
Jars and lids (or other containers) for freezing
Rinse the grapes. This seems like the most time-consuming part of the process. Rinse the grapes, and rinse them again. You are looking for little bugs, specks of earth, and anything else that you don't want cooked into your grape juice. Rinse it all away, then rinse one more time for good measure.
Pick the grapes from the stems, rinse them one last time, and put them in the stock pan. Discard any shriveled or overripe grapes. You can leave in the green grapes. You can also leave in pieces of stem as they will be strained out. My personal preference is to remove all of the stems. It makes the later mashing and straining easier.
Add water to the grapes. This can be as little as one cup for every few pounds to adding enough water to almost cover the grapes. This will be a matter of your personal taste.
Using very little water will make a strong, thick, sweet juice. Using enough to just cover the grapes will make a more traditional juice.
You can also add water after Step 7 if you prefer a more diluted juice.
The photo below was taken after I had started mashing the grapes.
Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Begin the straining process. To speed things up, I first strain through the top of my double boiler/steamer pan. The bottom pan is large enough for the juice to drain into.
The top pan has large holes for a fast first strain of the grape juice.
Empty the grape mixture into the top pan and gently stir and press the grape mixture to squeeze out most of the juice.
Continue gently stirring and pressing until you are just left with a thick mash.
Note that if you don't have a double boiler pan, you can substitute a colander other bowl or pan that has larger holes for letting the grape juice drain through.
You can now discard the mash. I'm sure that there are uses for it, such as making a facial mask or even whirring it into a smoothie, but I haven't been ambitious enough to do any research or experiments, so I'll leave you on your own if you want to use the leftover grape mash.
Strain the juice again through a fine strainer.
Pour the juice through a fine mesh strainer. Stir the grape mash gently to get as much juice out as possible.
Alternately, you could pour the juice in the strainer and leave it for an hour or two for the juice to drip out completely. This keeps the juice a little clearer.
Optional (Step 7)
If you want very clear juice, you can strain this again using cheese cloth lined over your strainer. As above, for maximum clarity of the juice, just let the juice slowly strain through without adding any pressure.
Optional (Step 7)
You can also take another optional step and place the juice in the refrigerator, tightly covered. Leave overnight and any remaining sediment will settle to the bottom of the container. Pour off the top, clear juice and continue on. Discard the sediment.
My preference is to continue on after the first fine straining of the juice.
You can freeze the juice without the cheesecloth straining and sediment settling, and then do these steps later after you've thawed the juice, too.
Pour the juice into freezer-proof jars or containers. Leave a generous space at the top for expansion of the juice as it freezes.
Note that if you prefer a more diluted juice, you can add boiled water, preferably filtered water, at this stage.
Take a moment here to pour yourself a little glass of this juice. It will likely be the most flavorful and multi-toned grape juice you've ever had. Absolutely delicious and no comparison to the commercially processed juice.
Do your best to drink just a little. It is soooo good it may be hard.
Put the lid on your jar or container and seal tightly. Repeat until you've transferred all of the juice to jars.
In case you are wondering, yes, the juice is a pinkish-purple. It's not the deep purple of the grape juice that you find on the grocery store shelves. Just wait until you taste it, though. Mmmm.
Be sure to label your jars. This is especially true if you also freeze tomato sauce or juice ... the colors begin to look similar after they are frozen solid!
Place your jars in the freezer and freeze for up to a year.
When you thaw the juice, test a sample to determine if you prefer a more diluted juice. Add water if desired. A general rule of thumb is that the optimum dilution is 1/2 juice 1/2 water, including any water you added during the heating process.
*Note that this recipe is for purple-red Concord grapes. According to Carla Emery in her book "Old Fashioned Recipe Book - Encyclopedia of Country Living", you should skip the step #5, heating the grapes, if you have white grapes.
About the author:
Patti Tokar Canton is a writer, photographer, artist, and a certified public accountant. She writes frequent articles on the topics of simple living, cooking, gardening, goal achieving, self-improvement, and saving money. She lives in a farm house with her husband, Chris, and enjoys living a frugal, yet abundant life.
Photos by Patti Tokar Canton. ©2012 All Rights Reserved.
Carla Emery's Old Fashioned Recipe Book - Encyclopedia of Country Living
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