This is the third summer since planting our little vineyard and this year we allowed the Concord grapes to form. Last week, I scrambled under a tight time window to get the first batch of ripe grapes turned into juice and jam. Boy, is it delicious!
Picking the grapes was simple. I just snipped the stems and let them drop into a tub. I picked about a third of them, just the darkest purple bunches. Then I swished them around with water from the hose and took the rinsed grapes into the house for a final cleaning and picking them off their stems.
We’d purchased a juicer, which is like a three-piece double boiler. The grapes go into the top pot with a sieve at the bottom. The lowest pot is for boiling water into steam. The middle pot has an opening in the middle for the steam to rise into the top pot and then catches the juice that leaks out from the grapes above it. The juice can’t leak back down the steam hole. Got that? There is a tube coming from the middle pot with a clamp that allows you to release the juice into another container as it builds up.
This was an interesting experience. I made several batches of jam, learning the tricks as I went along. Strangely, they did not all come out the same. I’ve had plenty of chemistry lab experience so I would have thought I was quite careful but I must have done things slightly differently from one time to the next. With the juice that didn’t add up enough for the jam recipe, I added a smaller amount of sugar to make juice. I always loved grape juice, but this is the really good stuff! Thick and substantial.
Last night I went back out to check the remaining fruit. Oh oh. These grapes were super ripe and were crawling with yellow jacket wasps. I backed carefully away and slept on it, dreaming how I might get my share of the harvest without getting stung. This morning, I tucked my jeans into tall rubber boots and suited up with my honey bee jacket, veil, and gloves. Armored for war, I snipped the clusters right off into the tub and dragged it away with swarming wasps all over it.
I thought I was pretty clever. I filled the tub with water from the hose and the wasps floated up and over the edge along with the tired, wrinkled grapes that were past their prime, and I just swished them all out with a stick. Now, the final, sweetest grapes of all are on the back porch with a towel to keep the bees away. One more session with the juicer and we’ll have saved the bounty of the vineyard for year number one.