Saturday, November 13, 2010

Canning Grape Juice - How To

Grape juice is my favorite thing to bottle.
Probably because it is the easiest.
And it is done at the END of the canning year.

Concord grapes are the kind used for making juice.
They are not good for eating - the skins are tough and they have a lot of seeds.
Get rid of all of that garbage however, and you are left with wonderfully perfect juice!

Here is what you'll need to get started:
- steam juicer (check my 'canning recommendations' section in the right hand column)
- Sterilized mason jars, lids and bands
- old towel(s)
- large bowl (one that wont stain - glass works well)
- colander (that wont stain)

Steam juicers have a bottom pan that is used to boil the water (fill it all the way to the top).

The middle section fits onto the bottom pan and has a cone in the middle of it with several holes.

The steam from the boiling water goes through those holes, where it then comes into contact with the grapes; which you put inside of the juicer colander:
As it steams, the juice from the grapes drips out of the holes, and into the bottom portion of the pan that has the 'cone' in the middle of it.

That is the basic idea, anyway, so lets get started.

You will begin by rinsing your grapes:

Fill your sink full of cool water and dump them in.
Swish them around to remove any dirt.
You will then move them from the sink into the colander portion of the juicer.

**Quick Side Note: Make sure you remove ALL leaves - they are very bitter and wont make your juice as scrumptious.  The vines are somewhat bitter as well, but they do allow the steam to circulate throughout the grapes better, which will get you more juice.  If it is a large clump of grapes, leave them on the vine.  If there are only a few, remove the grapes and discard the vine.
Feel free to pile the grapes up - they will shrink down as the steam gets to them...

Before you turn on the unit, be sure that the clamp on the hose it set in place - you don't want any juice dripping out while your not looking.

As the unit heats up, keep pushing the lid down until it is snugly fit into position.  Then you will wait for it to start steaming.
Start your timer when the steam is noticeably coming out from above the lid:

You will steam the grapes for a total of 1 hour, but you'll have to fill some bottles before then (I'll get to that later).

While you are waiting, you'll need to set up a little 'station' under your juicer.  I like to use two chairs and a cutting board, but you could use a table, or whatever else you have around.

This juice is VERY BAD AT STAINING everything it comes into contact with, so I cover any questionable areas with old towels (it will wipe off of your floors and counters, but you have to catch it quickly before the stain sets.  Putting a towel down makes cleanup much easier.

The whole point of your little setup is to make the perfect distance to where the hose from the juicer can fit just inside of your jar, like so.  As you can see I had to jimmy rig it by using another bowl.  Be creative, it doesn't really matter.

As the grapes start to release their wonderful juices, it will be obvious as the hose will show the dark purple color.

Okay, so remember from the beginning when we went through how it all worked?
The steam juices the grapes and the juice starts to fill the pan with the cone in it right?
Well if you let the juice get too high it goes right down those hole (where the steam comes out) and into your boiling water.  Which means you are losing your valuable juice!  Your one job is to NOT let that happen.

As I said before, you will steam them for approximately 1 hour, but if you leave it that long without filling any bottles you will lose your juice.
I start filling STERILIZED bottles 20 minutes into the steaming time.

Make sure the end of the hose is inside of a bottle, and push the clamp open with your fingers, like so:

The juice will then start filling the bottle.  Keep in mind that this juice is boiling lava hot, so I would recommend not touching the hose...

You will have to monitor when to close the clamp again to ensure that your bottle is full (within 1/2" of the top), without overflowing it (remember that little part about staining?).

When your bottle is filled, clamp the hose, and screw a new lid and band onto the bottle.
Use hot pads to tighten the lid as much as possible.

The best part?  The juice is so hot that you don't have to steam the jars!
Just screw the lids on, and move them onto another towel (which works as a hot pad) and let them cool.  As they do, they will seal themselves.  Like I said, easy...

Each batch should get you about 5-7 bottles (depending on the size of your juicer and the amount of grapes used).
You will need to continually fill up more bottles as the steaming time goes on.
If you are unsure if there is enough juice to fill a bottle, just life the colander portion out of the steamer temporarily to take a look.  But I would recommend doubling up on hot pads and wearing long sleeves, because you will burn your hands/arms if not.

After an hour of steaming, turn off the unit and remove the lid.  You should be left with all of the pulp:

Now get your stain-free bowl and colander and put the colander inside of the bowl:

Spoon the pulp from the juicer into the colander (it will continue to drip juice as you work on the next batch).

As you can see, there is still some juice left over.  You are fine to start a new batch and leave it in there, but you'll have to start filling up your bottles sooner than 20 minutes into the steam, so the juice level wont get too high.

As you finish each new batch, just spoon the previous pulp that has been sitting in the colander into a plastic garbage bag and throw it out (or compost), and then refill the colander with the new pulp.

When you are completely finished with the grapes, remove the empty juicer colander from the pot.
Now move the colander from the bowl and put it on top of the pot that holds the juice:

Take the bowl (that is filled with all of the extra juice, and pour it into the pot:

Let the pulp sit for a while until the juice is done dripping, then dispose of it.

You can reheat the juice in the pot so it is hot enough to seal, but I usually just make that into juice immediately.

When jars are cooled, write the date on the lids and put them away.  Make sure they are all sealed!  Unsealed jars should be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week(ish).

And now on to the most important part...
To make the juice:

Use a small colander and pour the juice through that and into your pitcher.

As the juice sits over time, it will begin to crystallize on the bottom.  This bottle was a few months old, so there wasn't a lot.  Using a colander is necessary when you get on to the year old+ bottles.

Mix 1 qt. of juice with 1 qt. of water, and add sugar to taste.
Sugar amount will depend on the year - some years the grapes are sweater than others.  We usually add about 1/4 - 1/3 c. sugar.
Stir it all together and you're done,

Now, enjoy!


  1. Oh my gosh Michelle, I don't know if you read my blog about making grape juice this year. I did it with Kristen. It was her third time and my first. I swear I will never do grape juice again! I thought it was such a waste of time to only get 5 jars per hour. I'd rather go buy it at the store! And if you say grape juice is the easiest thing to can, I'm pretty sure I won't be canning anything. Ever! Glad you like it though. ;)

  2. Ha! It does take an hour to get a batch, but you can pretty much do ANYTHING ELSE while you wait. And it tastes WAY better than the store bought. Totally worth it for me, but I love you anyway, Steph!

  3. I have canned grape juice this way for years and love how the steam juicer makes it so easy. As to the grape stains, they come out instantly with bleach so I never worry about staining anything.