Sunday, September 8, 2013

Grape Juice Concentrate

I recently found myself with more Concord grapes than I knew what to do with.  I had purchased them to make grape jam (more on that later) because apparently, according to my household, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just isn't the same with strawberry jam.  I believe this to be true also, and since I had been eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly at work (due to my lack of motivation to pack anything else), I figured grape jam would be an important addition to the pantry.  

Finished juice with a jar of concentrate in the background.  The concentrated juice darkens and becomes more flavorful over the course of about a week after canning.

Anyway, I bought too many grapes.  They were inexpensive, and since I never really have access to local grapes, I got a little carried away.  I wanted to find something easy and quick to do with the excess, and grape juice sounded like a good idea, but I really didn't want to go through the lengthy process of cooking the grapes, straining them, refrigerating them, filtering them, etc.  So, I looked around until I came across a great method for making grape juice using raw packed fresh grapes, sugar, and water.  

This method is really nothing more than canning whole grapes in a sugar syrup with the exception that you do not fill the entire jar with grapes and you add the sugar and water separately.  You can alter the amount of sugar you use, but make sure to use enough to counter the tartness of the grapes.  

You fill the jars with fresh, raw grapes, pour desired amount of sugar into the jar, and cover with boiling water.  As the jars are processed in a boiling water bath, the heat and pressure cause the grapes to split open and flavor the water.  When removed from the canner, this process will have started, but the longer the jars sit, the darker the juice gets.  If you allow it to sit for about a week, you will have a very flavorful concentrated liquid which you can then strain through cheesecloth.  Just add fresh water to this concentrate, and you have a very tasty juice.  The finished juice is sweet (but not too sweet), slightly tangy, and very refreshing.  If you prefer a weaker juice (something more akin to flavored water) simply add more water when mixing.  Either way it is delicious.   

Juice just after canning.  Notice that it is not dark yet and the sugar has not dissolved. 

A few important notes...
  • I chose to double the quantity of grapes and sugar to create a concentrate so that every time I open a quart of grapes, I can actually get around 2 quarts of juice.  I also wanted to minimize the number of quart jars I had to store.  If you prefer to make a juice that simply needs to be strained before using, use only half the grapes and sugar.  At that point, simply strain and serve (no additional water is needed). 
  • Make sure you keep cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer on hand to remove seeds and skins from your juice, and make sure you clean your grapes exceptionally well before adding them to your jars in the beginning.  There can sometimes be debris on the grapes that you don't easily notice while washing, and this can result in pieces of debris in your juice before straining.  Just wash your grapes really well.   
  • Just after processing your jars, you will notice a layer of sugar on the bottom of each.  This will dissolve over the course of the next week.  Just shake or invert your jars gently several times during the days after processing to help the sugar dissolve quicker.  
  • I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that if you put a knife or metal utensil gently inside each jar as you fill it with hot water that the utensil will absorb a lot of the heat helping prevent the jar from breaking.  Even though you should be using hot jars when packing and filling, it's not a bad idea to give this a shot anyway if you are worried about jars cracking from temperature changes.  Could be true, could be an old wives' tale.  

This recipe makes 1 quart of juice concentrate.  Just increase the quantities as needed for the number of quarts you wish to make.  The idea/method for making this juice came from Thy Hand Hath Provided.  The method is essentially the same as the method for canning whole grapes from National Center for Home Food Preservation.  The only difference is that you are not completely packing your jars with grapes, and you are using the juice rather than the grapes in the finished product.  

Grape Juice Concentrate-  makes 1 qt of concentrate/2 qts finished juice

You will need 4-5 pounds (approximately 14 cups whole grapes) to make a canner load of 7 quarts of concentrate.

2 cups whole grapes, washed well with stems removed
2/3 cup sugar 
2 pints boiling water

Sterilize and prepare quart jars for canning.  Soak lids in boiling water.  In each sterilized jar, place 2 cups whole grapes.  Cover with 2/3 cup sugar.  Add boiling water to cover leaving 1 inch headspace.  Wipe the rim of each jar before topping with a sterilized lids and rings.  Process each jar in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Remove jars and allow to cool completely before checking seals.  

To use the Concentrate:  Strain the contents of 1 quart jar through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer (to remove seeds and skins) into a clean vessel.  Add 1 quart fresh water (you can add even more for a weaker juice).  Stir and serve chilled.    

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  1. This looks good!
    I had made all sorts of juices in different ways, but when I moved to Idaho everyone used steamer juicers. Oh. My. It's so easy. We use the juice for juice or jellies and mash up the leftovers pulps for fruit leathers.
    Here's a link. I hadn't ever heard of such a thing and now I tell everyone who cans!

  2. I have heard about steam juicers and would love to try using one. I personally don't know anyone who owns one. We just don't drink enough juice for me to be able to justify paying a lot for one, but if I ever catch a deal, I would definitely give it a shot. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This recipe is just what I was looking for! Virginia, what is the least amount of sugar you could add per jar? The grapes I have are really pretty sweet as is.

  4. Christine, I probably wouldn't use less than about 1/3 cup sugar per quart. That would be similar to the ratio in a light syrup, and light syrups are great for really sweet fruit. Good luck!

  5. Grape juice is very healthy I love this juice. Thanks for sharing such a informative post.

    juicing diet plans

  6. Can you replace the sugar with honey?

  7. You could replace the sugar with honey. You will need to use less honey than you would have sugar. I would use about half the amount to begin, taste, and go from there. You could also mix the two if you are worried that the honey taste will be too strong.

  8. Is the sugar essential in the preservation process, or only for taste? I have a friend who puts other fruit in hers ( such as half a pear) to help sweeten without sugar. Is this safe?

  9. It looks good! Have you tried with pineapple? Simply delicious.

  10. 27 September 2014 Concord Grape Juice
    Thirty three liters of juice was made from 90 pounds of Concord grapes.The grapes were picked in Thorold, ON. Grapes were washed, removed from substrate by swiping across a plastic screen, cooked about 15 minutes, beat into a slurry with a hand blender, strained through a food mill, placed in liter jars and pressure canned at 15 PSI for 15 minutes for long term storage. Three liters of water was added to each 30 pounds to thin and to facilitate cooking.Pictures depict the process.

  11. 14 September 2015 Concord Grape Juice
    Seventy five pounds of Concord Grapes were purchased from a Vineyard ($25.00 per bushel) on the Niagara escarpment.The grapes are in peak condition.The removed substrate weighed 5 pounds, and the strained seeds weighed eight pounds. Sixty two pound were made into juice.The fruit was placed in the cooking pot in four batches of ~ 15 pounds each with ten liters of water to make a drinkable texture. The fruit was cooked until soft about 20 minutes, then blended into a slurry. The slurry was put through a food mill of 2mm mesh to remove debris and seeds. The juice was then put into liter jars and pressure canned at 15 PSI for 15 minutes. Forty nine liter jars of juice was obtained, 1.25 pounds of grapes per liter.

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    Benefits Of Grape Juice