Grape Juice, Cordial & Syrup
preserve grapes without canning or making jam
There are some devoted jam makers in my family.... I'm not one of them. Maybe someday but right now I'm just not up to all the boiling of jars and such. However, having some really awesome grapes available, I have found a couple of great ways to preserve them so I can enjoy their flavor and vitamins over the winter.
This lens is going to show you a couple of ways that I take grapes and turn them into juices, cordial and syrups that I can keep or give as gifts.
How Grapes Found Me - I actually didn't go looking for them
I ilke grapes but they aren't something I've ever grown myself. Getting mature vines takes some time and some space and so far where I've lived in my life didn't have either. And then my senior parents sold their home and moved into a rental to plan their downsizing.
The carport at their rental house is swarming with grapevines! And while they don't have to do any yardwork at this house, the gardeners sure aren't doing anything about the massive amount of fruit that develops on the vines in the fall. My sister, who makes jams and fruit butters, wasn't interested in the grapes, but I was. And thus, more fruit than I know what to do with is made available to me each autumn.
There are two types of grapes growing along the carport wire walling. They are wine grapes, which you can tell because they all have seeds in them. Modern, table grapes tend to be varieties which don't have seeds. One grape is some sort of Concord-like type, very dark red-purple and large. One kind is a smaller grape that goes from green to pink-blush when it ripens. I don't know if it's what is formally considered a champagne grape or a blush, but I just love how these look and the flavor is fantastic.
Grape Masher - Don't Crush Those Seeds!
If you wind up working with wine grapes like I did, there's one thing you have to be really careful of not doing, and that's to not crush up the seeds. This will add bitterness to whatever you are making. I avoid that by using hand tools instead of mechanical processors. A good sturdy hand masher does the trick without overdoing it.
Simple Grape Juice - this gets bottled and kept in the 'fridge when doneClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cooking with grapes always involves straining at some point. Having a sturdy and large strainer allows you to handle big bunches of grapes at once. Just be sure you have a bowl that is deeper than the strainer...
Making Grape Cordial - this is the really easy one
This is the one where the mashing comes later. To start your cordial you will need a really big bottle, jar or jug. Make sure the neck is wide enough to get grapes in, and consider getting slightly swollen grapes out later.
Clean your grapes. Fill the bottle most of the way full with grapes. Then pour high-quality vodka, brandy or grain alcohol into the bottle. Put this someplace dark and cool for anywhere from 1-3 months (or longer). The grapes and the booze will co-mingle.
When you feel the grapes have soaked enough, you will want to pour out the contents, filtering with a strainer to catch the grapes. Save the booze in a huge bowl. Put the grapes in another huge bowl and mash. Filter/squeeze your mash through a strainer to get all the juice out of the grapes. Add this juice to the alcohol and rebottle. Add about a cup of sugar per quart. Let this age for another month or so.
Test the mixture after a month. If it's too tart, add a bit more sugar and let it age again to blend. If it's too cloudy for your preferences, filter/strain again. You might want to use a jelly bag at this point to get a really clear liquid.
When it's clear enough and sweet enough for your tastes, bottle into smaller bottles and store in a cool, dark place. This makes an awesome holiday gift.
Which Color For What Project?
It really doesn't matter what color your grapes are for what you are making. The choice is up to you. I tend to turn the sweeter batch of fruit into juice since no sugar gets added to that, and if one varietal is more tart, that is good for a cordial since you do add some sugar to that. But you might want the really sweet one to be the syrup/molasses. Experiment and see what you like.