Summer is coming to an end in the Pacific Northwest and pretty much the last garden fruit in my garden to harvest are grapes. It was a total surprise for me this year to see that the grape vine we planted 2 or 3 years ago actually produced grapes and not just a few but an entire basket full of delicious blue grapes. For the past 3 weeks I am going out every morning and get myself a couple bundles of grapes for breakfast or lunch. Picking my own raspberries and strawberries is already pretty cool for an ex city girl with no gardening experience but harvesting your own grapes is elevating the entire gardening experience to a whole new level. I have no idea why but I feel very proud picking my own grapes and its not like its super hard to grow grapes and you need a lot of gardening knowledge, just pure luck that we picked the right variety and a lucky spot for them to grow. My friend Astrid has grapes in her yard and she made the most delicious grape juice for me a couple years ago and so I thought this year I want to make my own grape juice once I saw the first bunches forming tiny little green grapes. I don’t even like grape juice but home made grape juice tastes nothing like store bought. Its more “nectar like”, so thick and syrupy and the color is just stunning, a deep velvety purple. To my surprise though did my grape juice not come out super sweet…which after reading up I guess is normal plus I was so exited about my grapes that I harvested them a little bit too early. I made my juice 2 weeks ago, I should have waited and picked the grapes this week, so let them ripen for a couple more weeks. Grapes really need to ripen until end of September in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless the juice is delicious and lots of folks dilute their juice with equal parts of water and sweeten it with sugar. So if you have grapes and want to give homemade grape juice a try, experiment if you prefer the thick nectar with some sugar or just as is or thin it out with water and add a little bit of sugar. I like the last version of thinning it a little bit out and adding some brown sugar or honey. I actually made a tasty champagne drink by adding some grape juice, sweet and sour, sparkling water, elderflower liquor and mint leaves to my champagne, it was very delicious, refreshing and had a stunning purple/pink color. Keep in mind though that a pound of grapes will yield a little less than a cup of juice, so you need quite a bit of grapes to get a bottle of grape juice. I got 6 cups of juice out of 7 pounds of grapes, but if you dilute it with water, it will turn into quite a bit of grape juice. I would suggest to can some undiluted grape juice so that you can enjoy and extend the lifetime of this fine elixir. Making grape juice is really easy, here the process:
- Pick your grapes
- Wash and de-stem the grapes.
- Put your grapes into a big stock pot and mash them with a potato masher, mash away at the grapes so the juice begins to flow.
- Cook the grapes. 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 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, secure with a rubber band. Make sure pot is sitting on a plate to catch any juice that may run over.
- Strain the grape mixture. Ladle grape mixture over sieve or cheesecloth to strain. Let sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator to strain completely