How to Make Grape Juice
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Homemade grape juice is easy to make with this simple method! Though any variety of grape can be used, we prefer fresh home-grown concord grapes. Concord grapes are easy to grow and make a rich, purple juice that rarely needs anything added.
Just smelling the grape juice simmering on the stove is enough to bring back memories of childhood, but with a grown up twist.
While this article specifically presents a recipe to make concord grape juice, any grape can be substituted. Just make sure you love the taste of the grape before you use it for juice. That taste is the basis for your end product and its best to not have add too much sugar.
First, a word on Growing Concord Grapes
When we moved into our homestead there were two grapevines of Concord Grapes that had been growing for almost 20 years. Because the owners between us and the original farmers had not been much into growing food, the vines had gotten quite unruly and out of control. But with careful pruning over a few years, we got those vines back into submission.
That said, even when our Concord grapes were unruly and wild, they still provided a great harvest for us. That’s why Concord Grapes are such a good choice for beginner grape growers, or folks who just want to have one grapevine on their homestead.
Concord grapes are cold hardy and pest resistant, which means even beginners can find success growing these sweet beauties. They are not the greatest candidate for a wine, but they are great for making juice that can be turned into jelly or even ice pops.
Concord grapes do have seeds, which is another reason we love to make juice out of them. While it is very fun to eat one right off the vine, it can be a workout for your mouth to get the seeds and thick skins taken care of.
When to Harvest Concord Grapes
Concord grapes are ready to harvest when they have turned a deep dark purple and are sweet to taste. Much like blueberries, you may be tempted to pick the grapes when they have just turned purple and are shiny and beautiful. But you actually want to look for grapes whose skins have turned more dull and bluish.
The nice thing about grapes is that you can always just pick one and see if they are sweet enough for your taste. If not, wait a few more days then try again.
Note – when your grapes do start to ripen you’ll also know by the interest that birds and other animals show in them. Protect your grapes by throwing a net over them, hanging soap to deter deer and turkeys, or attaching bird tape to scare away birds.
Benefits of Grape Juice
Just as a glass of red wine can have beneficial impacts (think heart disease prevention and lowering cholesterol) some research has shown that red and purple grapes may also have health benefits. This is because of the antioxidants, and more specifically the “flavinoids” in grapes.
You can read more about the health benefits of grape juice here, but in general you can think of grape juice as an alternative to red wine for similar benefits. In fact, some research has suggested that the benefits of grape juice may linger even longer in the body than those of red wine.
You may also find a lot of claims that grape juice and help prevent or treat the stomach flu. The theory goes that grape juice alters the Ph of your intestinal track and therefore makes it harder for stomach bugs to reproduce. Unfortunately, there is not enough research to support these claims, as the Ph influence of grape juice probably wouldn’t be enough to kill the types of viruses that cause stomach flu.
So yes, drink grape juice knowing that it can have positive benefits for your health, but don’t expect it to be a miracle cure for the dreaded stomach bug.
To Sweeten or Not To Sweeten your Grape Juice
Many homemade grape juice recipes will include sugar in the ingredients list. And yes, you can sweeten your grape juice, especially if your grapes are not as sweet to begin with. But we prefer to make a rich, natural tasting grape juice without added sugar. We find Concord grapes are plenty sweet, and skipping the sugar allows you to taste their true flavor.
If you think that your grape juice would benefit from added sugar, you can stir in up to a cup of sugar while the juice is heating up (step 10). You could also add another sweetener, like honey or maple syrup, when enjoying the grape juice rather than while you are making it. That way, each glass can be made to order!
How to Make Grape Juice
- Large Stock Pot
- Potato Masher
- Metal Strainer (that fits into your stock pot)
- Cheese Cloth (enough to line your strainer)
- Large bowl or second stock pot for straining
- 6-10 cups Freshly picked grapes Removed from stems
- Place grapes (removed from stems) into your large stock pot. The amount you use is flexible, but stay below 2/3 the height of your pot.
- Crush the grapes using a potato masher or similar tool.
- Add just enough water to the stock pot to cover the crushed grapes.
- Bring the grapes and water to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer grapes for 30 minutes.
- Place the strainer, lined with cheesecloth, into another large bowl or second large stock pot.
- Pour the grapes and water into the strainer and allow juice to flow into the other pot/bowl.
- Place the pot/bowl and strainer full of grape pulp into the fridge to continue draining for 24-48 hours.
- Remove and discard (compost!) the grape pulp.
- Carefully pour the grape juice back into the first stock pot (cleaned). Stop when you reach the bottom of the juice and any sediment that has gathered (you are basically decanting the juice here).
- Enjoy! (or preserve for later) Note: If your grape juice turns out thicker than you like, simply add more water when serving, or mix with seltzer for an awesome homemade soda!
How to Can Grape Juice
You can use a hot water canning method to can grape juice and make it last up to a year. We use the grape juice canning method found in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I summarize the method below, but if you are new to canning we highly recommend picking up this book or consulting a our beginner’s guide to canning to better understand the method and what equipment you’ll need.
- Bring your grape juice back up to 190 degrees (do not boil).
- Keep at this temp for 5 minutes.
- Pour into clean canning jars, leaving a quarter inch headspace.
- Place lids and rings on jars, and place into your hot water bath canner.
- Bring water to a boil and keep at a boil for 15 minutes.
- Allow to cool then remove the jars and let them cool on the counter before storing.