Friday, September 11, 2015

Steaming Grapes



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!


10 comments :

  1. hee hee had to chuckle at the fine dining. We've done that. I just cooked out some scuppernong juice myself. I got a qt. to stick in the freezer until I have time to make some jelly from it. I sure do like that steamer!!!! I have never seen one of those. It is soooo interesting how it works!!

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  2. What a nice harvest!! We lost 2 of our 3 grape vines to the cold last winter. The remaining one is trying to come back. The bark literally peeled away from freezing..we have never seen anything like it. The vines were several years old and had been producing well(occasional black spot,though),giving us enough for juice and jelly. My oldest son and I are planning a trip into NY to a vineyard to get grapes soon. We just love homemade grape juice! I make it by adding the grapes and sugar to water in a jar,canning it and adding water when it is opened because it's concentrated. Today,I am canning pie pumpkin..they ripened so early and were starting to rot. It sure has been a strange year! Happy "putting up"!!

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  3. I have a steamer just like that one, but don't get many chances to use it. We can't grow Concords down here in MS, but we do get fruit orders down here, so occasionally I order some grapes...expensive. :-( But, my husband loves grape juice. I have used it to steam plums. Plum juice is delicious. I never water bath the jars. The hot juice has always sealed the jar lids on their own. Also, I usually add the sugar when I serve it. Anyway, it was so neat to see the process in pictures. :-)

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  4. I enjoyed this... I know the struggles of grapes... If you would spray what would you use? I follow this blog because you seem to have so many of the same interests I do... gardening, staying at home, canning etc... and of course children! blessings on you... (I signed on as A. cause I am not sure how else.) some day we may meet...

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    Replies
    1. I have heard copper is a good fungal spray that is more "natural." I haven't tried it. I'm not strictly organic, though I try to avoid sprays when possible. But I might have to resort to a normal fungal spray to truly get rid of the black spot.
      Gina

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  5. Have you ever used your steamer to make apple juice? I was wondering if it would work for that.

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    Replies
    1. I have never tried it. It might work. We often make cider in the fall with my dad's cider press so never thought of steaming apples for juice.
      Gina

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  6. I would also agree with LMJ (above) that the hot juice actually seals your jars without having to hot water bath them. Just boil the lids and put on jars. Would definitely save a lot of time for you!

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  7. We love our grape juice! My husband's sister owns the family farm that has produced Concords for decades. My mother in law makes the communion juice for church, and has for years. I make several gallons every year; we're mostly water drinkers, too, and for fun, we will occasionally carbonate it with our seltzer machine for homemade "grape pop". Concords are great! However, we usually leave them on the vine until the sugar content is very high, so that we don't have to add sugar - is that not an option where you are? Many years, grape harvest here in Washington happens just before frost, for this very reason.
    -dep31

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    Replies
    1. That is interesting. I never considered letting them on later to make them sweeter. In our area, grapes are usually harvested in late August or early September. I usually wait until a few grapes start falling, then I know they are as ripe as they can be without losing the crop. Maybe different areas vary?
      Gina

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