Making grape juice isn’t difficult but if you’re doing it without a press (as I must) then it does take some time because the straining process is slow. You can use any grape varieties you like but if you want the classic grape flavor (like Welch’s makes) the concord variety is the only grape to use. They are a deep bluish purple color when they’re ripe and the flesh slips out of the skin easily and has two sizable seeds in each one.
This is how you make grape juice but it isn’t a recipe with specific amounts. Use whatever quantity of grapes you have on hand and if you want to know exactly how many jars you’ll need to heat in your canner you can measure the amount of juice you have before you reheat it to process it in the jars. You won’t know exactly how much you’ll end up with until you’ve finished straining the pulp out of the liquid.
Put your grapes in a big enough pot that it won’t boil over. If you have more than will fit in one pot you can use as many as you need that will fit on your stove. Don’t add any water. Before turning the heat on, crush some grapes with a potato masher or the back of a spoon. This will keep the grapes from burning at the bottom before the juice is boiled out of the grapes.
Bring your pot of grapes to a boil. Boil the grapes for as long as it takes for the grape flesh to reduce to juice leaving mostly grape skins as pulp. Look at the first picture in this post to see how they start out looking and then look at the picture below to see how your pot of grapes should look when they’re ready to strain:
Observe how the slotted spoon brings up only skin and seeds. There are no more globes of grapes left. Also notice how the skins look more red than purple now as the pigmentation has been cooked out of them into the juice.
You need a large bowl or pot to strain your juice into, a strainer, and either double layer cheese cloth or butter muslin. Place your strainer over the top of the bowl or pot and place your straining cloth over it, be sure to push it into the bowl of the strainer before ladling your juice into it. Now you can fill the strainer to the top with juice and pulp you just cooked. Let it drip until most of the juice has drained out.
Now gather up your cloth and squeeze all the extra juice you can out of the pulp. You will be surprised how much you can get out of it- so don’t skip this step for the best yield. When you’ve gotten all you can out of the pulp, put it in your compost bin, rinse the cloth out well, and set it back into the strainer. Rinsing the cloth each time is important because if you don’t do it the fine sediment will make the next batch you ladle into the cloth drain even more slowly because it clogs up the cloth.
This is the part that can take a long time. Just keep straining until all of it is done. At this point you may wish to restrain it, this time through one extra layer of cloth to strain out even more fine sediment before canning it. This is up to you. Once you can your juice and let it sit for a week on a shelf you will see all the sediment sink in a layer at the bottom of your jars. You can carefully pour your juice out of the jars, when you’re ready to use it, leaving the sediment in the jar, or you can restrain it at that point. One think I can tell you for sure is that the sediment is not pleasant to drink and kids especially don’t appreciate it.
To Process the Juice:
1. Heat up the strained juice to boiling point and then turn off the heat.
2. Ladle the juice into hot pint or quart jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Adjust the two piece caps.
3. Process pints or quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner making sure to cover the tops of the jars with at least an inch and a half of water.
Special notes: Depending on the sweetness of the grapes and according to personal taste, you may need to add sugar to your juice. Some years the grapes are sweeter than others. There is no specific amount for me to recommend. Taste the juice and add sugar a half a cup at a time to your entire batch, tasting after the sugar has completely dissolved into the juice. I prefer my juice to be tart but my son has a sweet tooth so I add sugar to mine until it’s sweet enough for him to enjoy, but only just.
You can also freeze juice. If you freeze it in jars you need to leave a lot more head space for the expansion of the freezing of the juice- leave about two inches room. You can also freeze in plastic containers. Juice freezes exceptionally well so this is a good option for people who have room in their freezers.