Grape Juice

Our Concord grape vines were loaded with grapes again this year and again, like last year, we didn't pick a single cluster from them. The summer was too cool for the grapes to ripen at all. It's such a disappointment after the time spent pruning vines and caring for them. The grape vines were one of the first things we planted when we moved here eighteen years ago but I'm thinking we need to pull them out and replace them with a variety that will ripen in a shorter time. Those Concords just need longer or at least hotter summers.

Some friends who live lower in the valley and therefore had a bit more warmth than we did (a mere ten miles from here) were more successful with their grapes. They gifted us with their excess. The boys and I picked several boxes and basketfuls.

Even these weren't as deeply colored and sweet as they would be after a hot summer but they were good enough for juice.

Another friend loaned me her steamer/juicer (she didn't have any grapes to juice this year either.) Have you seen this nifty thing? I need to get one for myself because it produces wonderful juice without the mess of hanging cheesecloth bags of cooked fruit. I can see using it for cherry and plum juice too.

The juicer has three parts. The hole-filled strainer top gets loaded with washed fruit....

...In the bottom water boils to produce steam...

The middle part directs the steam onto the fruit to gently cook it until it releases the juices which drip down and collect in the pot.

The scalding hot juice pours out a tube with a clamp to control the flow. I fill commercial juice jars and reuse them every year. As the hot juice cools in the bottles it creates a vacuum that seals the lids tightly. No canning necessary.
Yes, I know that the extension office may raid my kitchen for using this method. I occasionally get a bottle that doesn't seal so I put that into the fridge for immediate use. Mostly I hear the satisfying ping, ping of the sealing caps.

I eliminated store bought juice in this house years ago (my poor deprived children) when the dentist bills got out of hand. Our homemade and nutritious organic juice is a treat every Sunday morning with our pancake breakfast.  We're grateful for generous friends.