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The Grape Debate

 
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I was gifted about 20-25 pounds of grapes. Mostly concord and another unknown, but seeded variety. (Sweeter and more red but not as grapey tasting.)  The same lovely person has also lent me a ton of tools for canning including a steamer for juicing.

I *thought* I was going to just be happy making juice but then I heard about making jam or jelly from the leftover pulp. Is that a thing? Some sources say grapes are the one thing you can't use like that but without explanation. IS there a way?

I also have a food mill. Is it better to make juice through that?  
 
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I have a friend who's always asking me to pick grapes from her arbor as she doesn't have a use for them. I grow some of my own, but we had a bit of not so humid weather when I got a chance to pick them, so I cut them in half, took the seeds out, and filled 8 dehydrator trays to make raisins. To say it took hours is an understatement. The results was a generous 5 cups of raisins. Makes one appreciate why dried fruit was so scarce way back when!

However, while discussing with a friend about what to use them for, I mentioned grape jam and that got cheers of approval. So I went to the arbor and very quickly picked about 12 liters of bunches of grapes. I pulled them off the stems into a pot, squished enough to get some juice, and boiled the first 2/3rds up, then started another pot for the last third. For part of the time, I cooked them on low heat just to dehydrate the product somewhat. Then I put them through my food mill (technically a vegetable ricer with the smallest screen in) to get the seeds out. Then I boiled the mix up again, skimmed off the froth, added some lemon juice, sugar and  Pomonas Pectin, and ended up with just short of 4 liters of jam.  It's delicious!

My Pomonas Pectin differentiates recipes called "jams" from "jelly" and the sugar content of the latter is much higher. Jellies by definition tend to have all the roughage removed and use just the "juice". The surprise I had when I first made grape "jam" was how many people told me they didn't like grape jelly, and then when they tasted my jam, thought it was wonderful.

Personally, I try hard *not* to drink my calories. Most fruit juices have the roughage removed, and fructose is a sugar, and I don't cope with much sugar (the jam is pretty low on the added sugar and normally it would get used on a whole wheat bread with some sort of nut-butter). Historically, fruit was turned into alcoholic drinks as the only way to preserve the Vit C or other nutrients it contained, and even then, many people were borderline for Vit C in their diets. I don't cope well with alcohol either... although I cope better with homemade wine from my own fruit than commercial wine.

I'm not sure how 20 pounds compares to liters of grapes in bunches. I happen to have a bunch of 4 liter buckets which I have a strap for that hangs across my chest for picking fruits and veg. I didn't bother to weigh them, as the recipe I was extrapolating from uses "cups".

That said, I wouldn't let them sit around long, as they will attract fruit flies! Take some pictures of what you decide to do, and maybe post recipes? If the fruit is vine ripened, I'm sure whatever your final decision is, it will be yummy!
 
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The specialty in my city are raisins, a variety called 'sultan' that is quite small and seedless, perfect for dressing. They are dehydrated in the sun, though.
We don't usually make grape jam since raisins are much preferred.
As Jay said, if you want to make jam, you need pectin. Another way to add pectin to the jam is adding a few apple pieces, preferably a variety without much flavour (like the golden) so you can notice the grapes flavour.

Also, grape-apple juice is a favourite drink for kids in Granada. Beware it is full of free sugars.
 
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Have you considered making wine?

 
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You don't need pectin for grapes.  I've been making Concord grape jam for the last few years since my grapes started producing.  Of course, the chickens get all the low-hanging fruit.

https://practicalselfreliance.com/grape-jam/

I made grape juice concentrate last year and canned it.  I am making more soon.

https://www.wyseguide.com/canned-grape-juice-concentrate/
 
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Sarah Soleil wrote:
I also have a food mill. Is it better to make juice through that?  


Use caution. My wife attempted that several years ago with seeded grapes. The manual food mill had a screen for applesauce and another screen for tomato sauce. She used the tomato sauce screen. The seeds got jammed into the screen so hard that we couldn't take the screen off. I had to put it outside to dry so that the seeds shrank before I could get it off. In the end she just filtered the juice through cheesecloth. I don't know if there is a way to run grape juice through a food mill. But that wasn't it.
 
Sarah Soleil
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I made a batch of jam and it was pretty good.
It's the recipe from Ball. Peel half of 8 cups of grapes, cook the peeled + remaining unpeeled,  food mill (the seeds got choked in the drill and were quite the event to pry out), then cook all together with the peels and sugar.    
I'm not totally sure I love that much chunky peel but the taste and color are ammmmmmmmmmazing. I'm getting more half pint jars and trying that again.  
 
Sarah Soleil
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Jeremy VanGelder wrote: I don't know if there is a way to run grape juice through a food mill. But that wasn't it.



Just the little bit I did for jam was absolute chaos. The seeds got jammed into the drill part, juice was leaking out of EVERYTHING, I was not thrilled with how much of the peel ended up as discard, and the SPLASHING.... at least I am more confident than ever that I need to paint my kitchen something other than white. (Oops)
 
Jay Angler
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The tool I use looks sort of like this, but this one might be more of a grater than mine.


When I was trying to leave the peels in, I painstakingly squished the insides out of the peel, cooked and de-seeded the insides, and then added the peel back in. When I realized I could use my ricer to deseed and squish as much goodness out of the peel as possible, I decided my time was worth it!

So some peel gets ground up into the jam, and a bunch ends up going to the chickens along with all the seeds! The jam tastes good, so that's "good enough" - perfection is for people who are fussier than I am!
 
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I've made grape jelly & juice. This year I made grape jam with "seedless" (soft seeded) Concordia grapes. The jam is excellent. I don't even notice the seeds!

If you have enough grapes, I say do all three.
 
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If you do decide to juice your grapes and want to avoid the sugars, consider making red wine vinegar.  I like to ferment the juice with champagne yeast because it will tolerate much higher alcohol levels than regular wine yeast, so it will convert all the sugars to alcohol.  Then, I let the wine sit in a wide mouth container with muslin covering it to naturally cultivate the vinegar producing bacteria from the air, or you could buy some live vinegar with the mother and add a little to your finished wine to get the vinegar production started.  

Taste before using, as it will be a lot stronger (more acidic) than what you're used to buying.  I use distilled water to thin it out to my preferred strength.

If you want to get fancy, you can bottle it up with a sprig of organic herbs stuffed inside (dunk these in a small bowl of vinegar first to disinfect them, then dispose of that vinegar), cork it, wax the top, tie some raffia around the neck, print some fancy labels and you have a nice cottage industry or frugal but really cool homemade presents!

N.B. I don't recommend this for those who ferment juices for wine to drink.  You are seeding your environment with vinegar producing bacteria and  that will increase the chances of your drinking wines going south.
 
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My son has lots more grapes than his family uses.
Last year I made a few bottles of juice. I really enjoyed it. I didn't drink it straight. It was great for flavoring fizzy water or sweetening yogurt. I served it to the grandchildren at holidays, diluted with fizzy water. It was special because it was from their house. This year I came out with about eight bottles.
I also dried some, but it's too cool here to sun dry them so I used a dehydrator.
This year I am experimenting with another raisin method at my son's house where it's usually quite hot in the summer and fall. I cut off from the vine a big grape cane with lots of fruit and left it in place to dry in the sun. So far the fruit isn't drying. The leaves are just beginning to dry. I am hopeful, because I'm making more raisins in the dehydrator and it's taking forever! These are a seedy white grape, a concord relative I think. Some of us love the crunchyness of the seeds in the raisins. The taste is special too, compared with commercial raisins.
I use about a pint or maybe two of jelly or jam in a year, and I prefer blackberry or lemon, so for me it's not worth using the grapes for that.
 
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Grape jelly is my all time favorite topping for toast! This year I got a five gallon bucket full of a mix of concorde and pinot grapes and set to work rinsing and popping them off the stems, mashing, boiling, draining overnight in a gigantic jelly bag (no idea where I got that from but it's not actually for jelly) and wound up with exactly a gallon and a half of lovely purple juice.  I put the juice on the stove with the sugar the recipe dictated, brought it to 220 degrees F and waited and waited for that juice to "sheet" off my chilled spoon. It never did, so I tried adding some random pectin I have that has no instructions. Nothing. Finally, in desperation, I went ahead and canned it and now I have 24 jars of grape syrup.  What went wrong, you ask??

I completely forgot about that little rule of keeping jelly batches small. If you try to do multiple batches at once, it doesn't heat properly and won't set.  Lesson (painfully) learned. Now there is a warning in sharpie right next to that recipe so next year's grapes don't meet the same sad fate...
 
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We harvest many. bushels of Concord grapes each year. Sometimes I'll sit and watch a show while squishing the insides out of the skin to be cooked down and strained before adding the juice and peels back together for jam or pie. That's worth it IMO, on a small scale. I also bought a steam juicer because it's so efficient and the only solution I could find that madeConcords easy. I LOVE IT.

It produces a concentrated, unsweetened juice. I can set up a low stool and use the silicone tube to fill jars with the concentrate. I don't process them further. With this, we make a lot of grape gelatin (Vital Proteins or similar grassfed gelatin), grape jelly and refreshing drinks. My kids got me one of those counter top carbonation things that makes for good mocktails. Also, grape shrubs and vinegar are delish and simple.

The seeds are so good for you if you are eating them fresh! Don't spit!

Concord pie was my little boy's idea- genius.
 
Sarah Soleil
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Jay Angler wrote:

When I was trying to leave the peels in, I painstakingly squished the insides out of the peel, cooked and de-seeded the insides, and then added the peel back in. When I realized I could use my ricer to deseed and squish as much goodness out of the peel as possible, I decided my time was worth it!

So some peel gets ground up into the jam, and a bunch ends up going to the chickens along with all the seeds! The jam tastes good, so that's "good enough" - perfection is for people who are fussier than I am!



I think I'll sttick to somethin like this next time. A ricer, grater or a sieve would be so much simpler compared to the mess the other thing made.

I'd adjust my texture a little more too and chop up the peels a little more. Some of them managed to stay almost wholly intact or in one very long spiral, it's like finding a slimy hair on my toast.
 
M Waisman
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Yesterday I picked a 2 gallon container of grapes and added another bowl full- under 3 gallons, picked through for debris but otherwise on the stem and unprocessed. I steam juiced them and got 5 quarts of deep purple juice canned. All that's left in the pot is stems, seeds and pale gray-purple skins. Steam juicers aren't cheap but such a time and nutrient saver.

I learned this year how to more easily process wild plums (get pits out). Precooking or freezing them makes the skin burst and the pit release and slide out so easily; a similar process could help with grapes to remove seeds. I think I'd try roasting briefly or freezing them first, wether squishing out the seeds manually or using a mill.
 
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I have a steam juicer and a Champion juicer.  The steam juicer dose a good job of separating the juice hot and ready to seal for storage.  The remaining skins and seeds can be run through the champion mill to get the remaining pulp and some of the finely shredded skins and seeds which i freeze as a jam because it is very thick.  I mostly steam grapes and berries with chopped apples so that I get more freezer jam which I use and wind up giving away much of the juice.
 
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