Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Grape Day in the Morning

I was terribly disappointed that the sweet older couple at the farmers' market this year had no Concord grapes to sell. After last year's bonanza and juice-making spree, I really had set my heart on having more juice in the freezer this winter. But to no avail.

So I moped a bit, consoled myself with the thoughts of one lone jar of blueberry-raspberry juice already in the freezer and of fresh oranges to arrive from My Wonderful Parents around the holidays.

Still, those thoughts are hardly substitutes for the rich sweetness of unsweetened local grape juice, and I moped a little more.

But when a friend took me to my favorite local fruit farm on Sunday for a jug of truly flavorful apple cider, I discovered an exciting surprise in the cooler one shelf below the cider: gallon jugs of Concord grape juice.

Though the farmer warned that the juice had not been pasteurized, I worried not, since I knew I'd be taking that jug home, heating the juice to a simmer, and then canning and freezing the jars.

I didn't get around to doing that Sunday immediately upon my return as other things clamored for my attention, but after work yesterday, I rolled up my sleeves, fired up the range, and slowly worked my way through that entire gallon. By leaving headspace in the jars for expansion, I ended up with 4 quart jars and nearly 2 pint jars full of juice for winter.

(I know, I know... how a gallon jug can yield 5 quarts of juice, even accounting for head space, is something of a mystery to me, especially when I'm sure there was a slight evaporation of liquid during the simmering process. But I'm not complaining.)

One pint ended up in the refrigerator as I really just couldn't wait to enjoy that grape sweetness. So this morning, instead of reaching for the cider, I pulled out the juice.

The verdict? It's just as good as last year's batch, with no sugar needed to enhance the fruit's natural sweetness. And I didn't have to do nearly as much work to get it!

Sounds like a grape deal to me!


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