It snowed this morning and so we feel the pressure to get the garden finished up. Of course we didn’t mean to wait until it snowed to harvest the grapes but these late grapes do taste better when they have had some light frosts on them, it tends to sweeten them. The grapes are so loaded with clusters and vines that they were not able to ripen as much as we would of liked them to. Living this far north a late grape like Concord or Zinfandel takes longer to ripen and so it is a little iffy to have a nice sweet grape.
First of course I had to put on a coat, grab the clippers, a box and head out to the grape fence. We didn’t have many Concord grapes and so most of the clusters of grapes I cut are the Zinfandel with just a few Concords. My fingers were frozen and I was plenty cold time I came in and no wonder when I looked across the valley and saw our mountain view.
After I thawed out a bit I washed the grapes and then gently pulled them off of the stems and loaded them into quart jars. The recipe for making juice is simple: 1 part grapes to 1 part sugar to a quart of water. I know that sounds like a lot of sugar but the only way to get away from the sugar after you have added so much water to your quarts is to use a juice steamer, and cook and drip the juice off of the grapes. Juice made with a steamer is not extremely sweet but very tolerable.
Back to the recipe…just add about 2 cups of grapes to a quart, add your sugar, fill up with the hottest tap water, put your lid on and shake the jar until you cannot see any granules of sugar. The sugar will disperse throughout the grapes as it sits on the shelf for the next four weeks.
Now the jars go into the caner and are ready to process. Add two quarts of hot tap water to the caner, tighten the lid and turn it on high heat. I process grape juice at 10 lbs pressure for zero minutes; that is well above boiling and sterilizes the grapes, jars and lids.
When the processed jars cool down and before you put them on your shelf of canned goods, give them a good shake to finish dissolving the sugar. The jars will look like pure water but give the juice four weeks on the pantry shelf, and it will color up and be gorgeous red juice.
Later when you serve your canned juice, just pop open the lid and holding it slightly to the side, pour off your juice leaving the grapes in the jar. Dilute to taste (about 2 1/2 to 3 times more water) and serve your guests from your own skilled hands. Enjoy!