Hi, Kathi here. Some very nice friends have a beautiful fountain in their backyard. It is under a metal gazebo/pergola, and it is just a gorgeous place to sit.
They planted a concord grape vine on the outside of each of the four corners, and the vines grow up the sides and cover the top, which adds a beautiful, leafy element. The grapes grow fat and juicy, and our friends generously allowed us to come over and pick the grapes, since they know we make jelly from this.
This year it was especially kind, as our vine had NO grapes. I guess it was a vacation year for our vine.
Last time we went, we cut a little under two five-gallon buckets of grapes. Then, my mom (who had helped us) took about a half of one of those buckets with her.
THIS time, we took home four five-gallon buckets. We weighed it, because it just seemed like SO much, and we had a little over 100 pounds of grapes. Oh. My.
Jim did the bulk of the de-stemming himself. It took him two full days. Then it was my turn to turn those grapes into juice, so I could later turn the juice into jelly.
I did not get it all done. Instead, I froze a huge bag of the grapes to turn into juice later. Wimpy, huh?
Here's how to turn your grapes into juice for future drinking or jelly-making.
De-stem the grapes. Just get all the grapes off the stems and into a bowl. It's sticky work. But plop some of the fattest, juiciest ones into your mouth as you work. Your tongue will thank you.
Take the bowl of grapes into the kitchen, and get out a kettle. I used an 8-quart stockpot. Put the grapes about 1 to 2 cups at a time into the stockpot, then mush them with a potato masher. Once you have about half a pot, put enough water into the kettle to just barely cover them. Then, turn on the heat, stir periodically, and let them come to a boil. Then, simmer the grapes about 10 minutes.
Pour the hot grapes into a sieve positioned over a large glass bowl. I use a nice, vintage canning sieve, with a wooden pestle. (You can look on ebay to see what I mean, 'cause I forgot to take a picture of mine for you. Or maybe you remember what your grandma used.)
Let it set for about an hour until the juice filters into the bowl. At this point, if you want crystal clear juice and/or jelly, you will want to pour it into a jelly bag positioned over a second bowl. That will keep out the majority of the solids. Or you can put the juice into the refrigerator in a pitcher overnight, and the solids will settle to the bottom. Then you can just pour the clarified juice off of the top and into the pan.
We kinda like the unfiltered kind, so we just use the juice that way.
Put the juice into the stockpot on medium-high.
Prepare your water bath canner, jars, and lids. If you need a good, basic tutorial on that, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation Web site at: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html
It's a good source for all things home-canned.
Okay, so then you heat the juice until it just starts to bubble. At that point you can ladle it into the prepared hot jars, wipe the rims with a clean, damp paper towel, add the lids, and then into the boiling waterbath canner. Process them for the time required at your altitute (it's 10 minutes for us here in the Denver area), then remove the jars to a kitchen towel on the counter, and let them cool overnight without messing with them.
Then you can keep the jars on your shelf until you are ready to make jelly or something.
Last night, we made a grape barbecue sauce, using some of the juice, for the porkchops we had for dinner. It was really good. I'll share that recipe soon.
It took me an evening for each gallon of juice, which I then canned into quarts. So, I took the chilled juice from the previous day's grapes and canned it into juice, then took the next batch of grapes and made a gallon of juice to chill overnight, then I canned that juice the next day. We have had a refrigerator shelf full of juice for the past couple of weeks.
It was time-consuming, but it's great to see all those quart jars of juice lined up waiting for the next step. The good news is that because it is canned, I can do it when I have time. Thanks for the grapes, Mike & Joni!