adventures in grape juice

I’ve written before about our neighbors’ food drops and the fun it is to get an unexpected box of unknown foods. Yesterday we got grapes–red, green, seeded, and seedless. With young kids in the house, you’d think these grapes would be an easy sell. But the grapes are just past prime (meaning my girls will pass) and there’s no way I’m going to remove the pits from the seeded grapes. Life is too short.

Thinking the grapes would end up in the compost, I lamented that I wished there was something that could be done with our oodles of grapes. They seem not as versatile as overripe pears, apples, berries, or bananas. My 5-year-old overheard my lament and asked, “Why not squeeze them to make grape juice, mommy?” Brilliant. Why not indeed?

I’ve made grape juice from vine grapes before, but never supermarket grapes. Figuring the principle would be the same, I washed them, removed most of the stems, then added them to a large pot with a few cups of water. The pot was covered and the water brought to a boil. I then uncovered the pot and reduced the heat. The grapes simmered for an hour or so, filling the house with the fragrance of sweet grape.

Next step was straining the juice through cheesecloth. My husband has come up with a good set-up for this: The four corners of the large cheesecloth square are secured with a rubber band, then the rubber band is twisted a few more times before being hung on a cabinet knob right above the bowl collecting the juice. The juice drip-drops into the bowl for a few hours, then the cheesecloth “bag” is squeezed a time or two to extract all the flavorful nectar.

pale pink undiluted grape juice

The final juice is refrigerated or frozen and can be diluted and sweetened as desired for drinking as-is or used as a base for jelly-making. This batch was a pretty pink; made from green grapes as well as purple, it was not the usual violet-purple hue. It was sweet and syrupy–for sure will need dilution with a bit of club soda to brighten it up. I plan to use some of it for drinking and most of it for jelly.

In the end, I like knowing that the food will remain in our kitchen and be used and enjoyed instead of ending up in the compost bin. Thank you to my 5-year-old daughter for turning my grape dilemma into a grape adventure.


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