Preserving Grape Juice ~ An Old Fashioned Method

If you have never tasted home made grape juice, then you need to try it!  The old fashioned method for canning grape juice is simple. One can put up a large batch of juice in a short amount of time.

This is a great activity in which to enlist the help of children to give them a "taste" of home preservation.  They will feel great pride in being a part of the process, especially when they are able to sample the juice and know their efforts helped produce it.

CAUTION:  Don't allow children to assist in the pouring of boiling water or in taking the jars in and out of the hot water bath canner.  These steps should be done only by a responsible adult.

Items needed:

Hot Water Bath Canner (Or pot large enough to hold jars covered with boiling water)
Rack for canner 
Quart Glass Jars produced specifically for canning (Jars not designated for canning can crack and break during processing.)
New lids (small or wide mouth depending on the size of your jars)
Metal Rings/bands to screw down on top of the lids
Sugar (optional)
Pot or Kettle to boil hot water
Old Kitchen Towels and cloths for cleaning up spills and to set the hot jars on once removed from canner (Grapes/Grape Juice will stain, so it's best to use old cloths you don't mind getting soiled.)
Jar Lifter
Grapes (Approximately 5 pounds will make seven quarts if you use 2 cups of grapes per quart.)

If you are new to canning, here is a couple of good posts from other sites to help you familiarize yourself and get your started:

1.  Wash and sterilize your glass jars.

2.  Fill your canner or pot with enough water to cover the jars when they are submerged and put on the stove to begin heating.  (It takes a while to get that much water to a rolling boil if you are using a quart sized hot water bath canner.  

3.  Fill your kettle or additional pot with water and heat to boiling.  (This water will be used to pour over the grapes in jars.  

Next few steps are fun for the children to get involved:

4.  Wash your grapes.  Hopefully you can find grapes that have not been sprayed.  Either way, wash them well because spiders, spider webs and bugs like to hide in the clusters  

5.  Remove grapes from stems.

6.  If you are using sugar (or other sweeteners) pour into bottom of glass jars.  (Suggested amounts are 1/4 to 1/2 cup per quart.)  I do not sweeten my grape juice.  Sugar is not necessary for preservation and is only added for taste.  Note:  You may see sugar in the bottom of your jar after your have processed the juice.  It sometimes takes several days for the sugar to dissolve in the jar.  

7.    Put 2 cups of grapes in each quart jar.  (Some recipes call for as little as 1 cup of grapes per jar, but we like our juice more concentrated.  One can always dilute the juice later by adding more water adjusting to individual taste.)

These next steps should be performed by an adult as children can easily get burned:

8.  Pour hot boiling water over the grapes (and sugar if you added it) filling to 1/4 of an inch from the top of the jar.  (Spacing is important when you are canning, so always follow the instructions regarding the fill line.)

9.  Carefully wipe the rims of your jars.  You don't want any juice, sugar or debris on the rims as this could keep the lids from sealing properly.  

10.  Place your new lids on the jar.  (Follow the manufacturer's instructions for prepping lids.  It use to be that one was instructed to place the lids in hot water before putting them on the jars.  Recently, some of the manufacturers have changed the instructions for their lids and boiling them in hot water first can actually cause them NOT to seal properly.  Each box of lids will have the individual manufacturer's instructions written on them.)

11.  Tighten down (finger tight) the bands/rings over the lids.

12.  Place your jars in the canner once the water has come to a boil.  Always be very careful as you work around the boiling water.  It's really easy to get burned.  The water should cover the tops of the jars.  You want them to process at a gentle boil.  

13.  Process for 15 minutes. (Some recipes call for processing as little as 5 minutes but I chose to process for the longest recommended time.)

14.  Carefully remove jars and place on towels in a safe place where they will not get bumped, pulled from the counter/table by little hands or burn someone while they are cooling.  As the jars begin to cool, you will hear the lids pinging.  It's always fun to enlist the help of the children to count the jars as they seal.  It's a great feeling to know they have all sealed properly.  

15.  When the jars are cool and sealed, you should remove the rings.  Leaving rings on the jars sometimes causes them to rust and they can be very difficult or next to impossible to remove.  They are only needed temporarily until the lids have sealed.  

16.  Wipe down your jars to remove any sticky residue, label the lids if you like.  I always at least put the year the item was canned on the lid so that I can rotate my stock.   Storing  your juice in a cool, dark place is the best way to preserve the quality of the product.  

17.  Allow your grape juice to set on the shelf for several weeks to  a month  before sampling.  Simply strain off the juice from the grapes, dilute if desired (or not if you like a stronger taste) and enjoy!  I actually drink the juice and then  smash and pour water over the grapes that remain and get a bit more juice from them!  You could also use a cheese cloth or flour cloth and squeeze the grapes into the jar of juice or simply just eat the yummy grapes.  

Note:  This may seem complex and overwhelming if you are inexperienced with canning, but once you get into the swing of it, canning grape juice is actually quite simple and moves along rather quickly.  In my opinion, it's a great first time project!

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