Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Grape Teamwork

Sometimes it's what you know.

Sometimes it's who you know.

And sometimes... it's a little of both.

I'd been hesitating to put away the last of my canning equipment for the year because I was hoping that I'd find Fredonia or Concord grapes at the market any week now. I haven't made grape juice in two years, and I drained the last jar some time back. But though I'd spotted Reliance grapes earlier in the season, I was holding out for the deep blue-violet grapes that make my favorite juice.

Enter, as he so often does, the Renaissance Man. One of his contacts with the local sustainable energy crowd has, for a couple of years now, invited him to stop by her place in the country and glean as much fall fruit as he likes. Two years ago, that meant paw paws. Last year it was paw paws and persimmons. And this year? That invitation included all the grapes he wanted.

Though he doesn't have a lot of experience at food preservation, the Renaissance Man -- in living up to his nom de plume -- is always happy to learn more. So he asked me, "What do I do with all these grapes?"

Dare I say it? I felt just a wee bit smug and oh so delighted when I replied, "You make grape juice. I'll show you how, and you'll give me some juice as my 'fee' for teaching you."

He picked the grapes off their stems on Saturday and stored them in the fridge until we could simmer them on Sunday. I came by to help with straining the juice, a task that took the better part of the evening since we had two big pots full! (And yes, as always, I forgot to wear gloves, so I ended up with very purple hands -- the juice "etched" so many lines into my hands that it looked like I had tribal tattoos!)

We ended up with about two gallons of juice -- far more than would fit in the pot and store in the fridge. So the Renaissance Man (again, living up to that name!) pulled out a large carboy from one of his earlier projects (making cider), and we poured the juice into that to store overnight on the cool back porch. (This picture shows how much juice we had after the first pot -- the end result was more than double that.)

On Monday evening, I returned to help with the canning. The RM racked (or siphoned, for those who might be as unfamiliar to the brewing process as I was!) the juice from carboy to pot, we simmered the juice while the canner came up to temperature, and then we filled jars and canned the juice in a hot water bath.

Fourteen canned pints, two uncanned pints (sent directly to the refrigerator), and a showing of Hitchcock's "Notorious" later, and we were done!

And what grape fun it was!

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