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Grape Juice, Cordial & Syrup

Updated on October 15, 2013

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

wine graphes, photo by Relache
wine graphes, photo by Relache

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 done

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First, you wash and clean the grapes.  Pick out stems plus anything mushy, gross, buggy, moldy, and keep just the nice grapes.  It's a sticky job.Next you mash the grapes to release the juice.  I use a potato masher and my biggest kitchen bowl.Strain the pulp and skins to catch both them and the seeds.  Keep pressing the mash to release the juice.To get absolutely all the juice, take the pressed mash, wrap it up on a towel and squeeze it for all that your worth.Put the juice into a big pot on the stove and bring to the most gentle boil for about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool down afterward.Pour the cooled juice into bottles that have been run through a dishwasher or boiled.  I use recycled Grolsch swing-tops from the thrift store.Keep in the refrigerator until ready to drink, and be sure to mix the grape juice 50-50 with water (plain or sparkling) before drinking.
First, you wash and clean the grapes.  Pick out stems plus anything mushy, gross, buggy, moldy, and keep just the nice grapes.  It's a sticky job.
First, you wash and clean the grapes. Pick out stems plus anything mushy, gross, buggy, moldy, and keep just the nice grapes. It's a sticky job.
Next you mash the grapes to release the juice.  I use a potato masher and my biggest kitchen bowl.
Next you mash the grapes to release the juice. I use a potato masher and my biggest kitchen bowl.
Strain the pulp and skins to catch both them and the seeds.  Keep pressing the mash to release the juice.
Strain the pulp and skins to catch both them and the seeds. Keep pressing the mash to release the juice.
To get absolutely all the juice, take the pressed mash, wrap it up on a towel and squeeze it for all that your worth.
To get absolutely all the juice, take the pressed mash, wrap it up on a towel and squeeze it for all that your worth.
Put the juice into a big pot on the stove and bring to the most gentle boil for about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool down afterward.
Put the juice into a big pot on the stove and bring to the most gentle boil for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool down afterward.
Pour the cooled juice into bottles that have been run through a dishwasher or boiled.  I use recycled Grolsch swing-tops from the thrift store.
Pour the cooled juice into bottles that have been run through a dishwasher or boiled. I use recycled Grolsch swing-tops from the thrift store.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to drink, and be sure to mix the grape juice 50-50 with water (plain or sparkling) before drinking.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to drink, and be sure to mix the grape juice 50-50 with water (plain or sparkling) before drinking.

Grape Strainer

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

grape cordial, photo by Relache
grape cordial, photo by Relache

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.

Making Grape Molassas - aka petimezi, saba, arrope, debess ennab

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Start with clean grapes like you would for juice, and mash up completely.  Filter with a colandar or sieve.Once filtered, put your juice on the stove and bring to a simmer.Add in a tablespoon of crushed eggshells, or two tablespoons of wood ash.  (yes, it's totally weird but that's how this is made)Skim off the gunk and foam that rise to the top of the juice.  Keep doing this for about 10=15 minutes.Take the juice off the stove and strain again.  This will get out the eggshell and more pulp.Put the twice-strained juice back on the stove and simmer for 4-6 hours.  Stir constantly and make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.After about five hours, your juice will be reduced enough that it will start to turn into syrup.  When it clings thickly to a spoon, you are done.
Start with clean grapes like you would for juice, and mash up completely.  Filter with a colandar or sieve.
Start with clean grapes like you would for juice, and mash up completely. Filter with a colandar or sieve.
Once filtered, put your juice on the stove and bring to a simmer.
Once filtered, put your juice on the stove and bring to a simmer.
Add in a tablespoon of crushed eggshells, or two tablespoons of wood ash.  (yes, it's totally weird but that's how this is made)
Add in a tablespoon of crushed eggshells, or two tablespoons of wood ash. (yes, it's totally weird but that's how this is made)
Skim off the gunk and foam that rise to the top of the juice.  Keep doing this for about 10=15 minutes.
Skim off the gunk and foam that rise to the top of the juice. Keep doing this for about 10=15 minutes.
Take the juice off the stove and strain again.  This will get out the eggshell and more pulp.
Take the juice off the stove and strain again. This will get out the eggshell and more pulp.
Put the twice-strained juice back on the stove and simmer for 4-6 hours.  Stir constantly and make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.
Put the twice-strained juice back on the stove and simmer for 4-6 hours. Stir constantly and make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom.
After about five hours, your juice will be reduced enough that it will start to turn into syrup.  When it clings thickly to a spoon, you are done.
After about five hours, your juice will be reduced enough that it will start to turn into syrup. When it clings thickly to a spoon, you are done.

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    • profile image

      Irinacraft 3 years ago

      M has and cut all grapes I have because of moscites !!:(

    • schwarz profile image
      Author

      Rae Schwarz 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @ikdj lm: Grapes preservation is either about keeping the fruit moist, or drying it out completely (raisins).

    • ikdj lm profile image

      ikdj lm 3 years ago

      Great lens. They used to preserve, or at least keep, bunches of grapes stuck into a bottle of water to keep them fresh and they kept them in the cellars of the old stately homes in England before the second world war when there was a working walled veggie garden :) So there was fresh grapes for quite a while after the season ended.

    • Bercton1 profile image

      Bercton1 3 years ago

      Nice lens and brilliant use of grapes for the consumers.. I like that!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      What wonderful uses for bushels of extra grapes! Your instructions are clear and I imagine they will be easy to follow. Thank you.

    • profile image

      samsmom7 3 years ago

      Enjoyed your lens very much. I love grapes and must try some of your recipes. Thanks!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      Splendid rendition of your grape preserving methods. Beautiful clear illustrations too.