If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I was in jelly making mode a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who says that homemade grape jam or jelly is easy to make either A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has actually done A, still thinks it’s easy and is just certifiably insane. If, however, someone has handed you or you have just purchased a bunch of beautiful, ripe concord grapes, this is pretty easy.
That being said, whether you have the fortitude (read: crazy) to start from harvest as I do, or have recently become the recipient of a ton of concord grapes, here’s how to make your own homemade grape juice and grape jelly. I’d like to note: this is how to make grape juice and/or jelly without skinning the damned grapes beforehand.
Whoever is skinning all those grapes has either A) has never actually had to harvest those grapes and then pick through all of them for just the beautiful, ripe ones or B) has done so and is certifiably insane, with a lot of free time on their hands at the asylum.
We only have 4 grape vines and I thank God for this. It took me over an hour to just to harvest all the grapes, thrashing through the grape vines and fighting off mosquitoes and such, in the early morning hours. Then it took me at least another hour to pick through my 6 bags of grapes to find only the healthiest and ripest ones. There’s over 2 hours of my life right there that I’ll never get back. My husband thinks I’m nuts. I just happen to really love homemade grape jelly. You decide. When all was picked and picked-through, I ended up with just over 20 pounds of grapes. Okay, maybe I’m a little nuts.
Let’s start with how to make homemade grape juice:
- Fill a large stock pot about 1/2 way full with clean concord grapes. Using a potato masher, mash up the grapes a bit, to release their juice. Add some more grapes, if need be, and mash again. Don’t fill your pot more than 3/4 full, as it will just be cumbersome once you get to the “I have to drain these” point. Cover pan.
- Turn on burner to medium and bring grapes to a boil
- Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, mashing the grapes around every 10 minutes or so. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan when mashing, to make sure there aren’t grapes sticking to the bottom of the pan.
You’ll start with a pretty clear juice in the pan but, as the grapes begin to simmer, pop and separate, you’ll see the juice start to darken and your kitchen will begin to smell like grape juice.
You are doing awesome! Reward yourself with a glass of red wine which is, poetically, also made from grapes.
Once 30 minutes is up, let the grapes cool for a bit and then strain the juice through a colander into another large pan or bowl. Discard grapes (I put ours in our compost pile). You’re now left with a murky, purple juice.
To achieve a beautiful, clear juice, I strain mine again through a fine-mesh colander. Then, using a cheesecloth-lined colander set atop a large pan, I strain it again overnight in the refrigerator. This takes a while, so just plan on letting it sit overnight. Pushing the juice through the cheesecloth won’t give you a clear juice, so just be patient and let it sit.
The next day, discard the sediment-filled cheesecloth and enjoy looking at your beautiful, homemade grape juice.
Congratulate yourself with a glass of wine.
If you’d like to make homemade grape jelly without pectin from your beautiful, homemade grape juice, here’s the recipe:
homemade grape jelly without pectin recipe
*Before beginning, place a small freezer-safe plate in the freezer. You’ll use this plate to test whether your jelly will set up or not.
Have canner with water filled, hot and ready to go, with jars, lids and bands sterilized.
Makes 6 half-pint jars
- 6 cups grape juice
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 cups sugar
Add grape juice and lemon juice to stock pot and heat to a simmer over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring well until completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Bring mixture to a rolling boil,, reduce back to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring ever few minutes.
Bring back to a roiling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Shut off heat, remove plate from freezer and place a good tablespoon or two of jelly on the plate. Place back in freezer for about 2 minutes.
Remove plate and test jelly. The jelly should have formed a bit of film on top. If you tip the plate sideways, the jelly should move slowly and appear gel-like, as opposed to runny. If jelly is still runny, wipe the plate and return it to the freezer. Bring jelly mixture back to a rolling boil, stirring constantly for another minute or two and repeat the freezer test until jelly sets.
Remove pan from heat and, using a ladle and jar filler, fill sterilized jelly jars to 1/4 inch below rim. Place lids and bands in place and process in canner for 10 minutes.
Remove from canner and let sit until all lids have sealed and jelly has cooled. Allow 12-24 hours for jelly to completely set. If, for some reason, jelly has not set, you can start over from the boiling jelly point or you can just say never mind and enjoy your grape juice.
Hopefully though, you’ve just made grape jelly! Have a glass of wine to celebrate.
Next year, I’m finally going to try my hand at making homemade rhubarb preserves with the rhubarb plants my parents gave me.