How to make grape juice the way your grandma made it

I was the happy recipient this week of many things, but most notably of a lovely largess of ripe Concord grapes. Somebody dear to me who owns a vineyard had a lot of Concord grapes that were going to waste: did I want to pick?

Did I! My mom and my sister Anne and Amalia and little Mack and I spent a happy hour picking grapes (and eating grapes, let’s be honest) and then when I got home with what  Mack hadn’t eaten (they are very tasty) I looked at the flats of tomatoes on the back porch, waiting patiently to be made into sauce, and I glanced guiltily out at the garden, with the carrots that are still waiting to be dug and the peppers that are tagged to pickled and made into hot sauce, and the rows of basil that I intend to clip and make into pesto and I wondered (only briefly) at this inability of mine to say “no” to free food. Especially free awesome and not-easy-to-come-by food like these Concord grapes. I mean, take a look at these. Would you have been able to say no?

Aren't they gorgeous? The Concord grapes are the purple ones, and the smaller green ones on top are champagne grapes.

Aren’t they gorgeous? The Concord grapes are the purple ones, and the smaller green ones on top are champagne grapes.

Of course you wouldn’t have. . . right?

In any case, as you can see, I didn’t–I don’t–have time for introspection. I have too much food to put up! Come winter (and I hear that it’s supposed to be an especially cold and wet one this year) I’ll be so grateful that I had all these tomatoes and grapes and carrots and peppers and cabbage and whatnot to put into the freezer and pantry. Also, I know that if I don’t want to endure the shame and the sorrow of throwing these grapes that we picked to the chickens in a few weeks, shriveled and moldy and unused, that I’d have to come up with a very quick and easy way to process them. . .

Then it hit me. (Boom.) Aunt Maria. I remember my mom a couple of years ago, waxing on dreamily about some grape juice that her sister had made that was so delicious and had the whole grapes themselves in the jars and was super-easy to make, it tasted so fresh . . . perfect.

I grabbed the ‘phone. But Mom was way ahead of me. She had already made a call to Aunt Maria and had the directions for us. (Boom.) Within the hour, I had grape juice on the counter. Lovely. Easy. Sweet. Boom.

Hooray! Here’s the juice that I made. It’s so beautiful, I can’t stop taking pictures of it. Isn’t it just lovely? And Gentle Readers, it is simplicity in a jar. The ingredients? Grapes, honey (or sugar), and water. No artificial colorings, no artificial flavorings. No guar gum or synthetic sweeteners or propylene glycolishness or whattheheckisthat? I’ll feel pretty smug this winter cracking open jars of this and watching the kids drink it. Not to mention drinking it myself. (I wonder what it would look like in a wine glass?) And mom says the grapes taste really good at the bottom of the glass, too. I can’t wait to try it!

how to make grape juice

After making a couple of batches of this juice, I can honestly say that of all the food that I’ve preserved so far this season, this was the easiest. Not to mention the prettiest. It definitely wins a popularity contest in my pantry. Homemade Grape juice for President, say I! (Just joking.)

I do enjoy making something this beautiful.

I do enjoy making something this beautiful.

Well, if it can’t be President, then it certainly can be my BFF. And it can be yours, too. Do you have a few handfuls (or a few buckets?) or homegrown grapes that you’re not sure what to do with, and are you not a grape jelly fan? Here are the instructions for how to put up this juice.

  • First, wash grapes and pull them carefully from their stems and toss any that are underripe or gross. (Throw them to the chickens, and then watch them scrabble after them! Fun!)
  • Wash quart or 2-quart jars and put in big pot of water on stovetop, also lids and rings, and heat until simmering. (Of course they’ll have to take their turns, if you’re making more than just a few. And you probably should. Tell them to play nice in there.)
  • Also heat on your stovetop your water bath canner half-full, and another big pot of water.
  • When the water with the jars has come to a simmer, pull the jars out one by one. In a hot quart jar, put 1.5 cups of grapes and 1/2 cup of sugar (scant) or 1/4 cup of honey and fill with the boiling water, leaving 1″ headspace. Be careful! Don’t burn yourself!
  • Put on hot lid and ring and tighten.
  • When you have enough jars to fill the canner and the water in the canner is simmering gently, (this all takes some real coordination and timing, but if I can do it, you can do it) lower the hot jars into the simmering water, cover, and turn off the stove. Let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Take jars out of the canner and place on a clean towel on the countertop. Let sit in a prominent place (this will bring you, the juicemaker, lots of positive strokes) for 24 hours before putting into your pantry or cabinet.
  • Check to make sure each jar is sealed (it will ring out nicely when you tap the lid lightly, if it’s not sealed there will be a dull thud–don’t worry, you’ll know it if you hear it) and then put away in a cool, dark place. If a jar doesn’t seal, refrigerate and/or consume immediately!

make grape juice

That’s it! See how easy it is to make this grape juice like your grandma might have made it? I’d better go get busy, now. I have another bucket o’grapes to process on the back porch. And some tomatoes to make into one more batch of salsa . . and some extra jalapenos peppers to make into escabeche . . . and . . . oiy . . . !

Cheers, Gentle Readers!


how to make grape juice

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12 thoughts on “How to make grape juice the way your grandma made it

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks Wendy, I’d like to know the details of the recipe you saw, if you have the chance to send me a quick note?

  1. Francene Stanley

    The grapes look wonderful. I have to wonder how many spare jars you own, sitting around waiting to be filled. You should be set up well for next winter. I hope you’re wrong about a particularly cold winter. I hate the cold.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m not a cold weather fan, either, Francene, but who knows? All the prognosticators could just be wrong! (crossing my fingers)
      About the jars . . you probably don’t want to know how many jars I have “sitting around waiting to be filled.” I’ve had several people call me as they unjunked their pantries . . .”Amy, you do a lot of canning, right? Could you use a few (boxes of) jars, I’ve got too many?” It’s nice to fill them up and then stand back and admire a full pantry. At least that’s what I’m working on . . .

  2. Chef William

    Looks great, but I am wondering how it would be to perhaps put an ounce or two of brandy and honey in one or two bottles and label them “cough syrup” if the winter is going to be that long and cold, just wondering? No idea if it work for a cold but I bet that after setting in there with those grapes, it would be a darn good drink to sip on while reading a good book as the snow falls gently on your windowsill.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      (hehee)I do like the way you think. I’ll do just that, and I’ll save a bottle for when you and Maria stop by for your March visit. Excellent notion, another one!

  3. Alana (@RamblinGarden)

    Would you believe I was scarfing seedless concord grapes as I was reading this post? Yes, and some canadice grapes, too. I remember this recipe from many years ago; I’m so glad to have it again and I will be pinning it just in case someone ever offers me surplus grapes (unlikely, sigh). Thank you!!

  4. Faye Henry

    Hi.. I always need to know exactly how to do something.. Sorry.. But did you use 2 quart jars and would you use the same amount of sugar for a 1 quart jar? Someone is giving me grapes and this is perfect but do not want it too sweet or whatever.. Thanks… Love your recipes..

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I used two-quart jars, but you can cut the recipe in half and just use quart jars. I would therefore cut the sweetener in half for quarts. The grapes will be so sweet that you won’t need much sugar! Enjoy!

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