Monday, September 28, 2009

Life Hands Us Grapes - for Grape Juice!

Picking and canning grape juice is definitely one of our favorite fall events. After months of coddling the vines and their precious nuggets - they are ready!

The fruit is ready weeks ahead of last year, and on average, the grapes are larger and sweeter too. The hot sunny weather all summer really paid off. We have at least 35% more grapes this year, too - because of the pruning we did. It worked!

Picking the grapes early in the AM is best - before school and the hornets come out!

Hornets were a real problem this year - you can see some of these clumps were drained by the yellow pests. The hornets were thick.

Here are the grapes from our first vine. The vine is 3 years old now and doing great - very vigorous growth and alot of production!

We only picked 2 of the 6 vines this weekend - and had more grapes than all of last year! Picking is the fun part - canning is alot of work.... least for Mom and Dad - the grape robbers started circling early and often!

Our grape juice recipe is fantastic - WAY better than steaming the grapes.

Simply put 1/2 cup sugar and 1.5 cups grapes into clean jars... then fill the jars with boiling water. Thats it!

Oh yeah - water bath the jars for 20 minutes in boiling water so you don't make wine!

Again, the propane double-burner we have paid off in spades - all the heat outside and the water boils fast.

Here is the final product - alot of juice! To drink, simply strain out the grapes from the liquid, and add another quart of water. You can add more sugar if you wish.
This year we got 101 quarts canned from the 2 vines we picked. Last year our 4 vines only produced 82 quarts! Wow.
The juice is best after sitting for 3-4 weeks for the sugar to disolve.

The other vines are still loaded heavy. You can see the leaves are starting to turn yellow - very pretty.
The vines left with fruit are even more loaded than the ones we picked, but the fruit is alittle smaller.
Friends and family have been asking, so we'll let them all come pick the rest.

Remember the hornets we mentioned? Later in the day they were out and at it - here is one in action.
See how deep he dives into the grape! There will be nothing left but skin and seeds when he is done with this one.

Here's a close-up shot. Hopefully there aren't too many of these in the juice!
JK - we picked all the bugs out...

Can't wait to drink it up.