I have just spent 2 days trying to make the perfect juice and jam and I will NEVER attempt to do it this way again!!! Part of my preserving philosophy is that I need to preserve my goods in the manner in which I will eat them. So, for example, we do not drink tomato juice and if I use it in soup it is just as easy to use sauce. Therefore, I preserve my tomato product in the form of sauce. Yes, I go the extra step to cook it down (reduce by half) before getting it into jars. This said. . . . .
I purchased some beautiful grapes from a neighbor who came peddling them. I decided that according to my philosophy I must preserve these grapes in “open the jar and take a drink” form. I also had it set in my mind that I must use my Villaware Food Strainer to do this. I could not find a recipe for making juice with a Food mill so I decided that I would just use my brain. I tried running them through raw- the mill barely juiced them at all. Then I decided to run them through a second time- this was too dry and the mill got plugged. So, I decided that I better cook them. I squashed them with my potato masher and got them to the near boiling point and then sent them through the mill. This worked well (after I remembered to screw the cone on tight so that it wouldn’t pop off again)but there was a ton of pulp and I wanted to have juice that tasted (and felt) like it was Welch’s from the store. So, I then set about running this juice through cheese cloth. THIS TAKES FOREVER!!!!! What remained after 3 hours of listening to very slow drips was a little tiny bit of juice and whole lot of pulp. And then as I was trying to lift the cheese cloth from one of my pans, I spilled it and all the pulp from that pan fell back into the juice!! (!#$%^&*) I said forget it and left it in the juice. From 30 lbs of grapes I yielded 6 quarts of juice that were pulpy!!
I had all this pulp left over and I did not want it to go to waste so I found a recipe for grape jam (with pulp, not jelly w/o pulp) but I was worried that it would be too pulpy as well so I went to the basement and found some juice from a previous year that I had made the simple way (more on that later). I combined the juice from that with the pulp I had and made jam. I have 11 half pint jars and 4 pint jars of jam to show for it. (and a husband who licked the pan clean when I was done-yum)
After the fact, I realized that the berry screen on my food mill is for making jam and not juice. And more importantly I learned that most of the time, how it’s always been done, is for a reason and it works just fine.
Now for the recipes to prove you can preserve grapes easily:
2 cups pulp (see below)
1-2 cups sugar (recipes vary, I used just over 1 cup for each 2 cups of pulp)
To make the pulp, wash and stem your grapes. Cover the bottom of a large stock pot with grapes and smash them with a potato masher, your fist, or a large cup, continue doing this until your stock pot is about half full. For each gallon of grapes, add 1 cup of water (If your stock pot is a 3 gallon/ 12 quart size, half full would be 1 1/2 gallons so you’d need 1 1/2 c. water). Bring this up to 190 degrees or nearly/just starting to boil. Stir and cook just a little bit ( a minute). Send this through your food mill, being sure that you are using the berry screen and/or cone. You will plug up your machine if you use the wrong screen.
Next, measure out your pulp and return it to that same stock pot that has been rinsed out thoroughly. For every 2 cups of pulp, add 1-2 cups of sugar- based on your preference. Stir this together and cook on medium high until it meets the gel stage. This takes quite a while (20 min- an hour) but you should not leave it unattended as it could boil over very easily. Use this time to clean up the kitchen a little in between stirs. Stir often. Most instructions say that the gel stage is reached when your jam “sheets” off a spoon. I never quite get this so this is what I did: I put 2 ice cubes in a shallow bowl and rested a teaspoon on them. When the jam looked like it was getting close, a poured a few drops onto the teaspoon. When the spoon and jam are cool to the touch, I test it for thickness and “gel”. If it is the consistancy you want, you are ready to put in jars. Ladle hot jam into hot (very warm is fine), sterilized jars- leave 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims off so that they do not have any jam on them. Place hot, sterilized lids and rings on each jar. Do not over-tighten the rings- turn them just to the beginning of tight. Using a hot water bath canner, boil for 15 min. (12 if they are half pint jars). You should here some popping sounds as you take them out of the bath or shortly after. This is the jar sealing. You will know it is sealed when there is no give in the center of the lid. Enjoy!
EASY Grape Juice
Clean and stem your grapes. Place a handful (jar less than half full) of grapes into each hot, sterilized quart jar. Fill within 1/2 inch of top with hot, nearly boiling water. Place lids and rings on jars. Boil in hot water bath for 15 min. (see jam recipe above for specifics on lids, rings, and bath) Leave these jars on the shelf for several weeks before serving. This allows the grapes to improve the juice flavor over time. To serve, carefully drain the juice from the jar being sure to leave the grapes and any sediment in the jar. Sweeten to taste (a teaspoon would be a good place to start) or mix with gingerale for a sparkling grape juice beverage that is really yummy! This same juice can be used for making grape jelly.