Canning is one of my favorite things. Not so much the process, that can be a real pain. But I love the results. Late every fall, jars and jars of home-canned goodness line up on my pantry shelves. The feeling of accomplishment is so great that sometimes when I’m having a bad day, I just go down and look at my pantry shelves. I know, pathetic isn’t it? But it really makes me feel better.
One thing I hadn’t ever done was juice. A few years ago, however, I got a call from a friend who said she had access to lots of free grapes if we were willing to go pick them. I thought, “Free is a very good price,” and went along. We went out to a farm on Sauvie Island just outside of Portland. Sauvie Island is beautiful and full of farms and farm stands. This particular farm (really just a home on several acres with an orchard and grapes) is owned by an older couple who no longer want to harvest all their crop. I had intended to just get enough grapes to maybe make some jelly and feed my kids grapes for a couple of days. But when faced with row after row of luscious, fat, purple goodness, I caved. One of the women with us said, “Oh, canning grape juice is easy. Just steam the grapes until the juice comes out and strain it and process it.” Having no experience, that sounded easy enough to me. I took home 80 pounds of grapes.
Let me tell you, juicing 80 pounds of grapes without the right equipment is not easy! All those grapes got into jars but it was a long day! The results were so wonderful, however, I purchased the right equipment and the next year went back to Sauvie Island and that same farm and brought home 125 pounds of grapes. Much easier when you have a steamer/juicer. My family loves the grape juice and it somehow feels healthier than the kind you buy at the store.
Wash and stem grapes. Juice the grapes. You can use a regular juicer or a steamer juicer. The steamer juicer can handle many more grapes at once making it ideal if you are processing large amounts of grapes. Once you have the juice, you can strain it if you like. Use a jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. You can also set the juice in the refrigerator over night, allowing the sediment to settle. Simply pour off the clear juice in the morning, leaving the sediment behind. This method doesn’t work very well if you are dealing with large amounts of juice. I don’t usually worry about straining, I like the more rustic look of the unstrained juice. Plus I just really don’t want another step to complete. You can sweeten the juice at this point if you want to. I don’t.
When you get your juice ready to can, heat it up to nearly boiling and pour into prepared, hot canning jars. You want the jars hot or pouring the hot juice into them may cause them to crack. Attach lids and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes for quart size jars. Allow to cool and add personalized labels.
To serve, mix juice with equal parts water and add sugar if desired. We sometimes mix the juice with lemon-lime soda to make a fun and easy punch that both children and adults can enjoy.