"In southern Appalachia, the wild grapes are muscadines, foxes, possums, and scuppernogs."
I picked these Concord grapes from vines my in-laws planted nearly 35 years ago. Just imagine how many jars of jelly and juice those vines have produced over the years! It is still a popular grazing spot for everyone in the family. One for me, one for the basket, two for me, one for the basket...you get the idea.
"Like the native American crab apples that farmers grafted with European apples, the Concord grape was the result of an intense breeding program. While European grapes tend to have thin skins, native American grapes are thick-skinned. Botanists call them slipskins; settlers and foragers today call them fox grapes. Two hundred years ago, the wild grapes growing in New England were abundant, beautiful, and sweet-smelling, but they did not taste good, and so some New Englanders store them in brandy. However, Ephraim Wales Bull of Concord, a friend of Henry David Thoreau, believed he could find a solution to the problem, and he worked hard to create a new grape. After ten years, in 1853, Bull presented a new grape to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and he called it the Concord. It did not take long for the new Concords to spread to Appalachia, where mountaineers used them to make jelly, wine, juice, and pies." Encyclopedia of Appalachia
Since I've already made several pints of peach jelly and plan to make some apple in the next week or two, I decided to turn these freshly picked grapes into juice. The recipe I use couldn't be simpler:
- Heat your clean jars, lids, and rings.
- Boil a big pot of water.
- To each hot jar, add 1 cup of well rinsed grapes (you can also use Muscadines) and 1/2 cup of sugar.*
- Fill each jar with boiling water leaving a half inch space at the top.
- Wipe rims with a clean towel and place hot lids and rings on jars. Swish the jars a little to help the sugar dissolve.
- Process the jars in a water bath (at a rolling boil) for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the jars and place on a towel. Allow to cool and seal for 12-24 hours before moving to storage.
*You can adjust the amount of sugar. I've seen other recipes that use as little as 1/4 cup and as much as 3/4 cup.
Allow the juice to sit for about two months so everything can blend. I'm not a patient person so I decided to open a jar tonight after waiting one whole month. I should get an award! I'm surprised that I was able to make it that long. I noticed that it had developed a deeper color and know that it'll darken up the longer it sits. I drained mine through a mesh strainer into another jar and store it in the fridge. It is great!
I believe that you would be hard pressed to find a simpler recipe for grape juice. Fun Fact: If someone in your house comes down with the stomach bug, start drinking as much grape juice as you can. It is supposed to change the pH in you intestinal tract and have enough vitamins and antioxidants to fight off the germs. If you are already having symptoms, it's too late. Not even grape juice can save you now. Please let me know if you give this recipe a try and how you like it!