At the end of summer, everything seems to ripen at once. With the extra dry weather we’ve been having in the Midwest, fruits and produce all seemed to give up early and be ready for picking. The grapes were no exception. Even with no rain, the grapes have (thankfully) done quite well. I hope some of you were able to make a batch of the grape butter from the other day and will enjoy it throughout the coming year (if you can restrain yourself from eating it all at once). If you still have some grapes left to use, homemade grape juice concentrate is like no other! The deep and robust flavors will leave your mouth watering and make you wonder why you ever bought it at the store, even though it is easier to buy.
Making this juice is much the same as grape butter. Pick off the grapes from the stems and wash them well. You will be surprised how much dirt and debris will come off. I try and rinse at least three times, letting the grapes soak for a bit so the loose dirt rises to the top.
For one batch you will need 4 quarts of washed grapes. Place the grapes in a large stock pot on your stove, and pour in one quart of water. You want to use enough water so you can see the water, but it does not fully cover the grapes.
Bring the grapes and water to a boil then turn down to medium high heat and cook for approximately 20 minutes. When the grapes have cooked down and broken into what looks like all liquid you are ready to strain.
To strain the juice, a heavy-duty cloth bag works best. These bags work extremely well. Or if you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own out of feed sack cloth material. You want a heavy duty bag since you will need to squeeze and twist it to get all the juice out.
Pour the cooked-down grapes into the bag. You should have the bag sitting in a bowl to catch all the juice. This will be hot! The juice has been boiling and the steam will burn you if you are not careful. If you are worried, let the mixture cool slightly. Once comfortable, start squeezing and twisting the bag to bring out as much juice as possible.
From one batch, you should be able to get out 2-3 quarts of juice, depending on how well you squeeze. Once you have two quarts of juice, add 1 ½ cups of sugar and 1 quart of water to the juice and stir until dissolved. You can add more or less water depending on how concentrated you want your juice.
Once you are ready to can, bring the juice back to a boil on your stove.
Contents always need to be hot before being put into jars to can.
Sterilize your jars and follow the instructions on your box of lids. Fill the jars with juice, leaving ¼ inch of head space. Place the jars in a water bath for 20 minutes to process.
This may sound like a lot of work. But start with one batch and try it out! As you become more comfortable with the process, you will be a speedy canner in no time. Have a canning party with friends!
Images by The Gray Boxwood