We moved to our property on the Eastern Shore last November. It was great to walk around the yard this spring and summer to see what new perennials were popping up, and to discover the wild blueberries in the back woods. Midway through the summer, I started noticing the ominous growth of something viney and leafy in the ‘wild’ corner of my front yard. Something vaguely grapey… but surely the growth of vines 20 feet up the birch tree couldn’t be grapes??
They certainly did end up being grape vines – masses and masses of grape vines of an unknown variety. It was a big project to cut the vines down this fall in order to save the trees – there were a few 6-foot spruce trees that had been holding up a portion of the vine mass that now have curved, sickle-like tops. (I know where my Charlie Brown style Christmas tree is going to come from this year!) We harvested the grapes once the vines were cut down – many of them were underripe, overripe, or damaged – but we still managed to gather up around four 5-gallon buckets of ripe grapes. Many were given away to grape-loving Food Action Committee members, but I saved about eight gallons or so to make some juice! I’m not much of a jelly fan, but who doesn’t like grape juice?
The first step was washing, cleaning and sorting the fruit. The cleaned grapes went in a big pot with just enough water to cover them. Once the pot got close to boiling, I mashed the berries down (some recipes called for mashing the grapes at the very beginning, but I found them a lot easier to mash once they started cooking up a bit.)
I kept them just under a simmer for another 15 minutes or so, and then drained them into a new pot through a cheescloth lined colander. A new batch of berries was started up, and then drained into the same big pot when it was done cooking.
I let the big pot of unsweetened juice settle in my cool sunroom for a day or so to let the sediment collect at the bottom. Then I carefully drained the juice back into another pot, added some sugar to taste and let it come to a boil before canning it in 1 litre jars.
Voila, Grape Juice! It’s a concentrated juice that tastes great with a bit of soda water.
We left a good chunk of the root system to start again next year, but hopefully we’ll be able to manage the growth a little better so we can actually access the grapes without yanking down the vines!
Yours in Food,