Foodie Friday: How to Make Concord Grape Juice Two Ways
We have two established grape vines in our fenced garden. One has Concord grapes, the other Niagara. The Concord grapes are fully ripe right now and we’re looking for any and every way to use them, because there are a TON of grapes. Enter: experimenting making grape juice!
Our Concord grapes have ripened fast and furious. Here they are in mid-August:
And here they are in mid-September!
Now, as you can see in the cover photo, they’re even more purple and are practically exploding off the vine.
The toughest thing about grapes is the time it takes to harvest them, pick them off the stems, and get them clean. But no matter what you are making, you can’t avoid these steps! You have to be sure to carefully pick through and get rid of any wormy grapes, unripe grapes, moldy grapes or withered grapes, otherwise (obviously) the taste, and safety, become an issue if you don’t. Here’s some grapes after lots of work cleaning them. This amount (about five cups) should yield a little less than three cups of juice:
After sorting, picking and cleaning SO MANY grapes, I’ve successfully made juice three ways. Yes, I know that the post headline here says ‘two,’ and that’s because one of the ways is not nearly as good. Specifically, I just popped a bunch of grapes in the blender, skin, seeds and all, blended it fine, then used a fine mesh sieve to strain it. The juice was okay, but not nearly as good as my other two methods. I think that it’s because this ‘blender method’ incorporated the seeds, which gives a more bitter flavor to the juice.
The more successful methods are:
Bring your grapes to a boil, then transfer to low heat and simmer for ten minutes, stirring regularly. Your grapes will release juice as they simmer. Let cool slightly, then use a fine mesh sieve to strain the juice. You can do this in batches, or all at once. Leaving it overnight to strain in the fridge is easiest if you have the space. You can also force the juice through your sieve or chinois by using a pestle, but be warned that this will cause more cloudiness in the juice because larger particles will pass through the sieve.
Once strained, pour into a jar (these are the ones I use) and you can drink! This comes out an absolutely gorgeous color.
Mash your grapes in a regular sieve over a large bowl, which forces off the Concords’ slip skins, and also removes some of the seeds from the (pretty globular) fruit, like so:
As you proceed mashing, remove skins and seeds by hand as they come off the fruit. I’m not sure why, but this is pretty easy when it comes to the skins, as they seem to clump together once removed. The seeds are another story. Don’t be surprised if most don’t come out of the fruit. Continue mashing until you’ve gotten most of the juice out. Strain the juice caught in your bowl through your fine mesh strainer into a jar. For safety reasons, it’s a good idea to give this juice a quick boil, basically pasteurizing it. You can also strain it through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of cloudiness (to give you an idea, I strained the juice in the photo twice, and there’s still a lot of cloudiness). This makes a lighter colored (and less beautiful) juice.
WHICH METHOD IS BETTER?
The hot and cold method juices do taste different. Cold method is lighter and sweeter, and hot is more syrupy texture and richer, with a slightly more bitter but still very sweet, taste. Ultimately, though, they aren’t different enough to make a difference to me. I think in a blind taste test the only way I could tell which is which is that the hot method has a syrupy texture. This makes the HOT METHOD the clear winner.
First, it’s much quicker than hand-mashing the fruit. The hot method takes about 40 minutes, and the cold takes about an hour and a half (longer if you keep straining to remove cloudiness). Second, the hot method makes a beautiful juice.
That gorgeous deep purple color clearly wins the beauty contest! Easier AND prettier? A clear winner, and what I’ll be doing going forward!