Preserving the Harvest & Making Grape Juice

I come from a family of gardeners & preservers.  We like to grow food, preserve it, & eat it!  It’s about that time in the garden to start saving produce for a colder day, so I thought I’d talk about preserving the harvest.  My dad’s grapes are also ready & I’m going to show you how I made them into juice for jelly.  As you’ll see below, this has been a light year for me in the preserving department!

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Preserving the Harvest

My mother’s parents always had a huge garden {mini farm} in their back yard.  For some reason, my Pepaw always liked growing peas & beans & gourds.  Oh – and potatoes!  I’m sure he grew other things, but those are the things I remember the most.  He would always let the kids dig the potatoes out by hand after the row was turned with a hoe.  I thought this was a load of fun, but he just didn’t want his potatoes cut with the hoe.  ; )  These kind of memories are what drive me to continue preserving the harvest!

 

Jars are the number one thing on my list when it comes to preserving produce & storing dry goods.  I prefer a quart sized jar for canning tomatoes & dill pickle spears.  Smaller pint & half pint jars are perfect for sweet pickles & jelly – especially for giving them as gifts!  I store flour, sugar, rice, dry beans, etc. in the larger half gallon jars to help keep out ants & bugs.

Two summers ago, I put up a ton of vegetables, both canned & in the freezer.  This included squash, corn, cucumbers & tomatoes.  My grandmother & my husband’s grandmother kept me busy all summer long!

My husband’s grandmother has brothers that are all farmers & always tip here off to awesome produce deals at the local farmer’s market.  They had a farmer friend that let her {and me} pick over their already picked tomato field.  My goodness – there were tomatoes everywhere!  We filled every nook & cranny of her vehicle with tomatoes.  I had plenty to put up on my own, but she went back several times & managed to can over 100 quarts of tomatoes!  There is one jar of crushed tomatoes left in my pantry, but most are tomato juice.  Those tomatoes were tasty & juicy!

I made right at 10 cookings of pickles – sweet, dill, & hot – which is quite a process from start to finish.  This picture is only showing maybe half of what I canned because most of the sweet pickles went to other people.

You can see a few peaches hiding in there as well.  There was also a watermelon to the right because every time I go to pick up produce for canning, the farming brothers always add a few extras!

Jellies & pickles make awesome gifts at Christmas time!  Last Christmas I use some green Ball jars to hold scented bath salts for the ladies.  My husband is a hunter & he likes to make jerky in our dehydrator, so that made great gifts for the guys – although the gals like it too!

Last summer I put up a lot of cantaloupe & peaches in the freezer.  Grandma’s brothers called & a peach vendor was selling boxes of bruised peaches for a $1!  Most of them were perfectly fine & for $1 we couldn’t pass that up!  Her brothers also made sure I took home plenty of cantaloupes as well.   ; )  This summer there have been no calls from the brothers, but my dad’s grape vine is fully loaded & ready for picking.  That means it’s jelly making time!

Muscadine Grapes

In last month’s gardening post I showed y’all a couple pictures of Dad’s grape vine….

Well, he called last week & said they were ready for picking, so I headed over Friday after class.  The grapes were huge & it didn’t take long to fill two 2 gallon buckets!  One went to my grandmother-in-law & one came home with me.  I’ll be back over this Friday to pick more.    : )

These grapes are a variety known as muscadines that are native to the southeastern & south-central United States.   All the rain we’ve had here this summer has made them nice & plump!  I’m not too fond of eating these raw because they have a thicker skin than table grapes & a big seed in the middle.  I’d rather make juice & jelly with them!

Making Juice for Jelly

The first thing that needs to happen before preserving any fruit or vegetable is washing them.  I just put mine in the sink and rinsed them with cool water while running my hands through them.  Remove any debris, stems, & bad fruit you find.

I posted a close up of the grapes after I washed them on Instagram & many people thought they were Christmas ornaments at first glance!  : D

After the grapes were clean, I dumped them into my canning pot & just covered them with water.  Adding too much water will dilute the juice.  I brought them to a full boil & let them boil about 5 or 10 minutes before turning the heat down to medium.  Then I covered them & let them cook for about 30 to 40 minutes.

I turned off the heat & left them in the covered pot over night to cool.  Then it was time to squish them!  I didn’t use my feet either!  You may or may not want to use gloves when doing this.  Grape juice can stain hands & clothes.  You also may want to do this in an area that’s easy to clean if you’re a mess maker like me…..

I told you those grapes were juicy!  After I was done squishing the grapes {& cleaning my mess} I used a basic colander to strain out the big bits.  Make sure to squish them against the side to get out all the juice.

I eventually had to put the colander over another pot & pour the juice over it to get out the seeds in the bottom.

This can be made into jelly at this point, but it would be more like a jam since it has so much pulp in it still.

I’m going to use a sieve to scoop out most of the pulp.  This did have a handle when I started, but one knock on my trash bucket & it broke off!  I need a bigger one anyway – and a stronger one, apparently!

When my juice was free of as much pulp as I could manage to remove {or because I was tired of doing it}, it was time to put it in a container.

Storing the Juice

I scooped the juice out with a measuring cup & poured it through a funnel into an empty & cleaned milk jug.  I’ll be storing this in the freezer until I have time to make jelly, so I left some head room at the top.

I wound up with a gallon jug plus two quart jars of juice.  The quarts jars are going in the fridge for fresh juice drinking!  These will be good for about a week, maybe two, so I would freeze anything that needed to last beyond that.

I grew up with a vinegar smell permeating the house while pickles were being made by my mother.  There was almost always a platter of cut tomatoes & cucumbers sitting on the table at supper time during the summer.  Meals were also accompanied by hot, homemade biscuits & Mayhaw jelly.  This is why I continue to grow, preserve, & eat homemade whenever I can.  It’s an experience that really connects you to your food!

Make sure to check out the sale at Fresh Preserving, they have some great deals going on jars & supplies!   Hope y’all are having a wonderful Wednesday & I’ll see you here on Friday for my monthly roundup!  : )

 

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8 comments

  1. Guida says:

    Hi Kristie, wow you have been hard at work. Tell your Dad his grapes are awesome, I think we call them Americana Muscat grapes here. I took cuttings of mine from the other house and hope they strike so I can plant them. I love to eat them, they remind me of when I was a kid, my grandad grew everything too. The only things I preserve here are strawberries (for jam for my son) and raspberries (jam for hubbie) and of course tomatoes (for passata). I hope to be able to grow lots of things here at the new house, just have to wait for rain (the tanks are all dry). Take care.

    • Kristie Cook says:

      I’ll be sure to pass your compliment on to Dad! There’s a strawberry field down from my house & every year I miss picking so I can make jam. Maybe this coming year is the year! Hope you get rain soon & have much success with your garden! 🙂

  2. Linda B says:

    Hi Kristie and good for you to be so energetic! Thought I would share my Mom’s method of making grape juice…we grew up with the concord variety, so not exactly sure how it compares to your Dad’s variety, but tough skins and big seed sounded similar! Anyway, she would take sterilized quart jars, and put a cup of the washed grapes in the clean hot jar. Then a cup of sugar. Then fill to the fill line with boiling water. Then process in a hot water bath for the recommended time. Easy peasy, and quite delicious. Too sweet for a low carber like me, but ever so lovely. The quart jars would go from being clear water to dark purple over a few weeks. I still recall how nice they were to drink!
    Cheers!

    • Kristie Cook says:

      That does sound tasty! It does sound like it was very sweet with the added sugar. This juice is slightly sweet with a little tartness – just right in for my taste buds. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. Lauren says:

    My Mouth Is WATERING!!! I love grape juice and can’t even imagine how good this fresh juice must taste. Mine would not make it to the jam stage — I’d drink it all. And probably be sick haha!

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