Since returning from our vacation, I’ve been obsessed with wine grapes. Dennis eyes me suspiciously and says “no wine making, seriously, for heaven’s sake.” And I don’t intend to become a winemaker, but I do like to blend wine grapes into fruity, tasty grape juice.
How could I help but be inspired when we spent the night in the hills above Ribeauvillé, on the recommendation of TrufflePig. This charming hotel, Le Clos Saint-Vincent, was a former cloister. The rooms were charming and very very French, with small brick private terraces and an incredible setting in the hills.
We walked behind the hotel, finding a mirabelle plum tree, two apple trees, rose bushes, and then nothing but wine grapes as far as the eye could see. A stunning view, interrupted by medieval Alsacian villages replete with red roofed homes, churches and cobbled narrow streets.
I’ve made this juice for the last three years. It’s no bargain unless you have your own grapes. But it’s delicious. And Dennis loves it. If I had a sunny, critter-free spot in the garden, I would plant a grapevine. We just love grape juice.
It couldn’t be easier. Find or pick eight quarts of wine grapes. All one kind, or a mix. I asked one farmer what kind of grapes he was selling and he shrugged. The vines were planted by his great grandfather, brought from Italy. They are all of suspicious and tasty origin, and any wine style grape will make delicious juice.
Taste before you buy and make sure they’re fully ripe. If they are too tart, you may choose to add sugar or honey or maple syrup. I never have. Not once in several years of grape juice canning. This is the grapiest grape juice you’ll ever taste.
Packed in these perfectly sized 12 oz jars, they’re adorable, right? and incredibly satisfying icy cold.
Sure, you can use it to make sorbet, or reduce it to a syrup to ribbon through ice cream. You can add it to sauces and to barbeque swabs. But around here we like it best chilled, and sipped straight from the jar.
Home Canned Grape Juice
12 – 12oz jars (one gallon)
4 quarts green wine grapes (I define these as any grapes with the thick skin and seedy center that pops out when you squeeze)
4 quarts purple wine grapes
(or 8 quarts of one type)
Filtered clean water
De-stem all those grapes. Either do this by hand while watching the U.S. Open and get your husband or kids or friends to help, or, (thank you, David Lebovitz for this lifesaving tip) pop them into the bowl of your KA mixer, turn it on low and the grapes come right off the stems.
Add the grapes to a deep 8 quart or larger stock pot. Add them one quart at a time, and when two quarts are in the pot, crush them with a potato masher. Continue to add the grapes by the quart and crush them well. When all the grapes are in the pot and crushed, add filtered water until it covers the grapes by one inch.
Bring this mixture to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the juice to sit for an hour to develop.
Strain the juice through a fine sieve lined in a triple layer of cheesecloth about 16″ x 16″. Allow the juice to sit overnight in the refrigerator to settle.
Collect all the leftover grape skins in the cheesecloth and squeeze lightly to extract juice. Form a tight package from the cheesecloth and grape skins and suspend over a bowl. I tied mine to the handles of my upper cabinets. Just allow the juice to flow into a bowl overnight and you might capture an additional two cups of juice.
The next day, you can choose to “polish” all the juice, and strain it through a coffee filter, or do as I do and just pour off the juice into a deep stockpot, leaving behind as much of the sediment as possible. My jars of juice have sediment at the bottom, but that doesn’t bother me.
Bring the juice up to a boil and boil hard for five minutes, then pour into sterilized jars, place lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Grape juice will keep for a year.