Once upon a time, I bought a grape plant. It was labeled as a seedless green table variety. Well, they did turn out to be green, but other than that were a complete disappointment. Each grape has several huge seeds and the skin is thick and leathery. The grapes themselves are edible, but sour and hard to chew with that skin and those seeds. There was really just about nothing to do with these awful grapes and I considered ripping the plant out and cutting my losses (namely the three years it took me to get an actual crop from my original little plant). We couldn't eat them, or at least no one wanted to. I used them in my juicer and made a raw juice that was almost undrinkable in its awfulness.
But I remembered that my husband had said that his mom used to can concord grapes for juice. Naturally, this conjured up nightmarish images of me peeling grapes and then squeezing them through cheesecloth like some kind of Roman slave girl. But wait--Kip said that his mom had just put the grapes into jars with some sugar and water and canned them. Then, when they wanted the juice, they poured out the liquid and there it was.
And that, my friends, is pretty much how it is. Grapes, sugar, boiling water into a jar. Process for 25 minutes. Done.
The first year I made these, I followed the recipe I will give you below. This recipe will give you juice at just the right sweetness and consistency. However, Kip said that his mom put more grapes into the jars and made a sort of grape juice concentrate, which they then added water to until it was just right. I liked this idea because it saved on jars and canning time. This is what I have experimented with this year (I'll let you know how it turns out later). The reason I'm telling you this is to invite you to experiment as well if you wish (or have limited jars or time for canning stuff). But if you want the tried and true recipe, then go with the one below.
There's really no way to make this picture pretty. I'm sorry about that. This stuff looks super ugly in the jars. It probably looks prettier if you have concord grapes, but even then the grapes are going to get wrinkly and pale and burst and just generally look like grumpy grape spinsters. However, once you strain them out and just have the juice, it's really perfectly normal-looking. I hope to get a pretty picture of that for you in a week or so when we can't wait any longer and open up our first jar. But until then you have these ugly pale bald grapes to look at. So, sorry.
An opinion: I realize that this has added sugar. I realize that if you go to the store and buy grape juice it will say that it's 100% juice and doesn't have any added sugar. This may lead you to believe that that juice is more healthy than this one, but I'm not so sure it is. I'm not sure how store-bought juices get their mega sweetness,but it has something to do with using a concentrate (aka--syrup, which is, yes, made from fruit, but still a concentrated sugary form thereof) and then has water re-added. It's processed and pasteurized, and I suppose that's good since you're buying it from the store, but you've lost a lot of the good stuff juice can have through that process. We've processed (cooked) our grapes too, but in this processing process, we've left on the skins and left in the seeds, which will sit there for months imparting their goodness (that's what makes for all those good anti-oxidants in wine and grape seed extract) to your juice. Anyway, sugar or no sugar I just think this is better for you. And you don't have to add the sugar. My grapes are kind of the grossest grapes ever so I do, but if yours are kind of alright, then you can leave the sugar out. If you taste the juice after it's done and decide that leaving the sugar out was a terrible mistake, you can always add it and stir it into your juice.
Easy Home-Canned Grape Juice
adapted from Cooking, Canning, and Gardening
Makes: recipe for 1 quart sized jar--multiply as necessary
Prep time: This depends on how many grapes you have. One thing I like about this recipe is that it can be done with a small or large amount of grapes. So if a friend gives you a few clusters of extra Concords from her garden, you can whip up a few jars of this and it's no big deal. Or you can do a bunch if you've got the grapes and time/inclination for such a project. If you're doing a batch of five jars, the prep is going to be about 30 minutes if you know what you're doing and can multi-task (sterilize jars as you pluck the grapes off the stems and clean them).
Processing time: 25 minutes
Cost: My grapes are free, so I don't know what it would be if you bought them, but who buys grapes to can them? You'll also need to buy jars, but--again--if you're canning you probably already have those. Sugar is about $.05/jar, and you'll need fresh lids, which will cost a couple bucks for 12 lids.
Note on grapes: As I said above, I have no idea what kind of grapes I'm using since they were obviously mislabeled at the store where I bought them. I know that Concords work beautifully in this recipe. And I'm guessing that any grape with seeds and a thick skin is going to juice well with this process as long as it's not some crazy wild grape.
1 1/2-2 C grapes, cleaned, stems removed
1/4-1/2 C sugar
boiling water to fill the jar
Sterilize as many quart jars as you think you'll need for the amount of grapes you have. You can do this by washing them in the dishwasher or putting them in a pot of boiling water. You'll also want to sterilize your lids.
Clean your grapes. I put mine in water and rinse them off. Then you remove them from the stems (yes, friends, that is a pain, but not as much as squishing your grapes and/or putting them through some frankensteinian machine would be). As I remove them I rinse them again. You want all the dirt and bugs and spiderwebs off. (Unless spider juice is your thing--I'm not here to judge.)
Put 1 1/2-2 C worth of grapes in your sterilized jars.
Add 1/4-1/2 C sugar. (Note: You can always add more sugar after processing if you strain out your juice and find it too tart.)
Pour boiling water into your jar, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
Put your lids on. Then put your metal rings on.
Put jars into a big pot full of water to process. You should have enough water in the pot that the water is about 2 inches above the jars you're processing. You'll process (boil) for 25 minutes (so don't start the timer till the water is boiling).
Take them out and put them on the counter. The lids will pop and seal. If they don't for some reason, just put that jar in the fridge and drink it within the next couple weeks.
I think this juice is best when it's had a week or two at least to sit and do whatever it does, but you could pop one open that night and drink it if you wanted.
When you want to use this, pour the juice through a fine-mesh strainer. I wouldn't crush or press too much on the grapes--if you do, a cloudier, more potent tasting, pulpier part will come through--that's fine if you're okay with it, but if you want juice that looks like juice, not cloudy weird stuff, then just pour your juice through the strainer.