The week before my birthday cider pressing this year, I changed my Facebook status to “in search of apples.” One of my old students Kyle got back to me, saying he had apples and grapes, which was a double-bonus. We went out to his place in Juanita and harvested two big containers of Concord grapes, plus a bunch of apples.
I have started grape vines in the front yard from my dad, but they’re only a year old, and if we’re lucky we’ll get our first grapes next year from them. Kyle’s grape trellis was incredible. The vines must have been 15 or 20 years old; they surrounded an outdoor awning about 10 feet tall, and were climbing up a huge tree they were next too. We easily got 100 lbs. of grapes in about a half hour.
Alicia is a woman of action when it comes to preserving; that very night she got busy smashing, boiling and straining grape juice for jelly and other projects. I had my eyes on some pyment (mead made with grape juice), and Hannah and Robbie just wanted to stuff as many in their mouths as we would let them.
I tried juicing grapes in the apple cider press, which was not very successful. It squeezed out juice, but definitely not all of it. The smashed grapes I took out of the press after squeezing them were still really juicy. The technique that worked best was putting all the grapes in a mesh bag and smashing them by hand. I have the bag with all the skins and pulp inside in the bucket of grape juice right now, hoping to transfer some of the tannins from the skin. Otherwise the juice is just sweet, not sweet-tart. I’ll add honey and get it fermenting into mead in the next week, probably following my plum mead technique from last year (I just tasted it and I think it’s ready to bottle after a year in the carboy).
In the end, we’ve got a bunch of grape jelly, about 16 quarts of grape juice (just grapes and sugar with boiling water poured over them, you don’t even have to process the jars!), and a batch of mead from the grapes. Plus I took some cuttings and am starting grapevines for planting next spring. We’ll have our own Concords in a couple years with any luck.
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