Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Grapes, Grapes, and Grapes

The one thing about growing your own food that never changes is the unpredictability of each growing season. This year we had excellent early spring gardens--lots of peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach, beets, etc. Then summer arrived, the rain left and the heat settled in for the last half of June and the entire month of July. Summer gardens suffered: a few cucumbers (when last year I was over-run with them), a few squash (ditto), no green beans (bushels of them last year) and struggling tomatoes and peppers. Now summer is weakening; the tomatoes are recovering and beginning to put out some good results and the late-planted beans and squash look promising.

And the grapes: last year we had a plentitude of them and this year? Repeat of last year. I canned juice and made lots of jelly last year. This year I still have a lot of jelly left (grape just isn't a favorite here) and I don't like wine made from Concord grapes, our most prolific variety, so I made juice. Four and a half gallons of concentrate, to be exact. It. is. amazing.

Making grape juice is a simple process, but takes time.

Step one: pick the grapes. Larry took care of this step. The rest was up to me.

So, step two: strip the grapes from the stems and wash them.

Step three: barely cover them with water and bring to a boil; boil for 30 minutes.

Step four: strain through a fine cloth (I have an old curtain that is perfect for the job).

This is where I usually don't do it right, step 5: refrigerate overnight. I usually just plow ahead and can the juice or make the jelly. This time I decided to follow instructions (novel idea, right?). We put two big canners of juice in the freezer overnight because there was no room in the fridge. We had some running to do this morning, so when we took the big pots from the freezer, the juice was just beginning to freeze.

Step 6: strain the juice again. Something happens when it is refrigerated; I'm not sure what, but more sediment strained from the juice, leaving it nice and clear.

Step 7: add sugar and heat to boiling. For my 5 gallons of juice, I added 4 pounds of sugar.

Step 8: ladle into jars, put the lids on and tighten.

Step 9: put in the boiling water bath canner for 15-20 minutes.

Step 10: Done!

Not complicated, but time-consuming and there will be purple juice everywhere. I was zealous about cleaning up quickly as I worked to discourage the fruit flies. It seemed to work. At the end, I had 18 quarts of concentrate from my bushel of grapes. Enough to last us quite well this winter.

 There are more grapes to be harvested. We gave a half bushel to Warren, but there are still plenty for eating and we didn't touch the white grapes yet.

I wonder what next year's garden winners and losers will be. Whatever the weather and seasons bring, the cellar has a head start with at least a one year, and in most cases, two-year supply of the foods we use most. That's a good feeling.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Rowan said...

Grape juice sounds lovely and I think I'd like grape jelly too. Nice to have so much food in store especially if it's a severe winter.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Yummy AND beautiful!

There's a certain time of year that makes me remember my beloved Uncle Whitey.

Up the hill he would come, with the undone buckles of his galoshes jangling, bearing a brown paper grocery bag chock full of grapes!
And thus began a lovely morning! (And the intake of way too many grapes!)

(He did the same with raspberries and pussy willows, too! )

Thanks for sharing and bringing back a lovely memory for me.

Have a beautiful weekend!


The Goat Borrower

Granny Sue said...

Even in a mild winter, we use what we put up, Rowan--actually, we use it all year. There is nothing quite like having your own homegrown food on the table :)

Granny Sue said...

I love that story, Mimi! And you reminded me of Mr. Lonas who would come over with a jar of "grape juice", and give it to my mother, winking like crazy all the time because it was actually his homemade wine.

warren said...

I just posted about making jelly with your grapes. They were awesome and I really really appreciate your letting us pick some (though Larry may have picked more than we did!)

I don't know what sort of magic you did on those vines but they look great and taste awesome!

Jenny said...

One of my favorite garden friends who does a lot more than I do in the garden commented about this same topic to me. She said she's noticed that if there is an over abundance of something one year, almost always the following year there is none or almost none. She's learned to go ahead & process the over abundance to take care of the following year.

I guess it's God's way of giving us the opportunity to store up for hard times.

Granny Sue said...

That is so true, Jenny, and that's why I try to have a 2-year supply in the cellar and freezer. It is not realistic to expect a good crop of everything every year, so planning ahead is a good idea.

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