We have struggled for many years to grow grapes.
Every year, something takes our fruit. We've had late frosts that withered the blossoms, worms that ate the new fruit, and many years of battle with black spot. I'm not sure if our issues are from inexperienced grape tenders or random circumstances.
This year we had an additional problem of Japanese beetles which loved the grape leaves and stripped part of the vine.
The grapes to the right have "black spot." Black spot is a fungal disease. It starts with a small diamond-shaped black spot on the stems, spreads to a black spot on the grapes, and turns the grapes into dried, inedible lumps that my children call "raisins" but are actually called "mummies." Apparently, if you have black spot in your plants and soil, it is hard to get rid of. I don't do well at remembering to spray and after many crop failures, we were thinking of just chopping down our vines.
But this year, our three vines were loaded with fruit. We lost a some of the grapes to black spot but other branches were loaded with beautiful clusters.
We harvested two bushels, one each of purple and green grapes. I was thrilled to be able to can grape juice again.
The children helped to strip the grapes from the stems. Then I borrowed my mom's Methu-Liisa steamer. Last year, when I only harvested a small pan of grapes, I canned them whole like Hope describes. But I prefer steaming since it results in a convenient grape juice concentrate.
The steamer consists of several stacked sections. To use the steamer, first fill the bottom section with water. As it boils, I had to keep checking to make sure the water had not all steamed out of this pan, otherwise, it could ruin the pan.
Stacked on top of the bottom section is the pan that collects the juice. It includes a tube to pour off the juice.
The next section holds the grapes and has a strainer-type bottom for the juice to drip through. I just rinsed the grapes before placing them in the pot.
Steaming grapes is easy. Except for watching that the water did not boil away and occasionally pouring off the juice into the jars, it is not difficult. But it is time consuming. It took me all day to steam those two bushel of grapes.
When the grapes had cooked down into a mash, I knew that most of the juice had been extracted. I dumped it out and started the next batch.
The result was a counter full of grape juice. The purple juice is from the purple grapes; the pink juice is from the green grapes. I added my sweetener before closing the lids. I use 1/2 cup sugar or 1/2 tsp of stevia for every quart. I canned the grape juice in a water bath canner to seal the lids.
When we did a taste test, I think I should have added more sweetener. The juice seems far more concentrated this year then sometimes. I added one quart jar to three quarts of water to make a gallon of juice - and the juice was still plenty strong. I wonder if the dry weather concentrated the flavor? I added a little more sweetener when I served it and we all loved it. Since our family is almost exclusive water drinkers, juice is a rare treat. The children thought that our own grape juice was worthy of getting out the goblets and experiencing some fine dining!