Late September and early October is Concord grape season in California's central valley.
Every time I walk under our grape arbor in this season, just the smell of those ripe grapes conjures up memories of childhood—wolfing down a PB & J, slurping a rapidly melting frozen grape juice bar (mom was way more into those than neon popsicles), or greedily munching on a grape flavored jelly bean, Lifesaver, or any of those turn-your-mouth-purple candies that we loved.
We used to make grape juice from Welch's frozen concentrate; sometimes the lid didn't come off so easily and splat there went a purple goopy mess all over our shirts.
If you have never had fresh, homemade grape juice, I assure you, you are missing out; it's nothing like anything you can buy in a store! It's more like nectar than store bought juice, thick and smooth.
Homemade Grape Juice Is Best Enjoyed Fresh
We like to dilute ours a bit with sparkling water. Over the years we've learned that our homemade grape juice doesn't really freeze well; it just doesn't taste nearly as special upon defrosting. So when it's in season, we drink it up.
Use Concords or Other Grapes
This recipe uses Concord grapes which, according to my friends in Concord, Massachusetts, still grow wild around those parts. I'm pretty sure you could use this grape juice recipe with any kind of sweet grape you like.
Homemade Grape Juice
You can use this recipe for any amount of grapes. A pound of grapes will yield about 1 cup of juice.
If you are using ripe concord grapes, no added sugar is necessary, the juice is more than sweet enough. But if you are using a more tart grape, you may want to add sugar. I would just taste the juice and add more sugar to taste if needed.
4 to 8 pounds fresh picked grapes (we use Concord grapes)
- Fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth
Pick the grapes:
Get a large basket, wear long sleeves and a hat, bring clippers, and fill up the basket with grape bunches.
Keep in mind that 1 pound of grapes will yield a little less than 1 cup of juice.
Rinse and stem the grapes:
Put the grapes in a basin filled with water. Then rinse the individual grapes, picking them away from the stem, collecting the grapes in a large bowl, and discarding the green unripe and old shriveled grapes.
Mash the grapes:
With a potato masher, mash away at the grapes so the juice begins to flow. If you have picked a lot of grapes, you may need to work in batches. We have found it easiest to mash about 4 pounds of grapes at a time.
Cook the grapes:
Put the mashed grapes into a large stockpot. Slowly heat the grapes and juice to a simmer on medium heat and then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the grapes don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Halfway through cooking mash some more, breaking up as many of the remaining grapes as possible.
Prepare a sieve or cheesecloth:
Get another large pot, place a large fine mesh sieve over it. Alternatively you can cover it with two layers of cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. Make sure pot is sitting on a plate to catch any juice that may run over.
Strain the cooked grapes:
Ladle the grape mixture over the fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to strain. Let sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator to strain completely.
Remove sieve or cheesecloth. Note that sediment will have formed on the bottom of the container. Rinse out the sieve or cheesecloth and strain the juice again, to filter out some of the sediment. Pour or ladle juice into containers. Enjoy your juice!
Note that the grape mash can be composted.
After about 1 week in the fridge I find that the juice starts to ferment, not in a bad way, it just adds some natural carbonation. If you let it sit around too long it could eventually turn to vinegar. This is why we try to make just as much as we would use up in 1 week. When we have made more than that we have frozen it, but the defrosted juice isn't nearly as good as the fresh juice.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 1g||1%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 9g||32%|
|Vitamin C 15mg||74%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|