I had in my mind that my grapes were no good until friends at a cookout complimented them. I thought they must be crazy. The grapes don’t usually produce much fruit, and what is produced is in small ratty looking clusters. However, I picked some for them, ate a few myself and they tasted good! What a pleasant surprise. To explain, my grapes are in a shaded arbor behind the house. It wasn’t shaded when I planted them, but trees grew up around them due to bad planning. Japanese beetles eat their leaves all summer. I don’t spray them for anything, and only prune them to keep the area under them clear. I do toss fertilizer at their feet a few times a year. Since the grapes tasted good, I designated last Friday, September 9th, the Day of the Grape.
I started five gallons of pyment (grape-honey fermented beverage) and made over 2 quarts of excellent grape jelly. Then the next day, being so pleased with these successes, I made two quarts of grape drink. The jelly and drink are bursting with grape goodness. I won’t know about the pyment for a few years, as mead needs to age at least that long. I plan to write a separate post on the pyment experiment.
My friends asked me what kind of grapes I had, and I didn’t know. They were planted long ago, some died and were replaced. But now I know some of them since I kept notes. For the jelly I used about half Marechal Foch grapes (planted in ’98), the small grapes pictured, and half red Catawba grapes (planted 11/00). The juice for the pyment included these grapes but was mostly made of two types of large purple grapes with seeds, and I have no idea what they are. My notes say they are two varieties of white seedless grape, which means these grapes died and I replanted and didn’t record what they were… Note to self, take better notes. Note to you, white seedless grapes may not be vigorous in the West Virginia climate. (The two types I tried were Ramaily Seedless and Interlaken Seedless.)
It was late in the season, and about half the fruit was on its way to making funky looking raisins. From what I’ve read about wine making, older grapes are sweeter and have a stronger grape taste because water has started to evaporate out of them. Certainly, the jelly and drink were bursting with flavor.
For the jelly, I simply used the Sure Jell recipe–the recipe in the box, not the one on the internet. It calls for five cups of juice, seven cups of sugar and one packet of Sure Jell (pectin). It will make about 9 cups of jelly. Canning seemed like a lot of work, so I simply sealed them hot, put them in the refrigerator and told people to eat them up. They should be fine for a few months.
The drink, recipe is below, strong enough to stand up to a glass full of ice.
3 cups of strained grape juice. To make the juice, crush the grapes by hand (your fingers) and simmer them on the stove for about 10 minutes, crushing them with a spoon. Then strain. The more fine the strainer, the more clear the drink/jelly, the more frustration you will have, and the flavor will be the same. (If you don’t simmer them on the stove, there will be a little less juice but the main problem is color. The drink will look pale and brownish. Heat extracts the color from the skins.)
1 cup of honey heated and mixed with 3 cups of water.
Mix the grape juice with the water-honey mixture and pour into two-quart jars. Add a pinch of salt to each.
I then used the microwave and brought the jars close to boiling before I put the lids on them so they’d last longer in the refrigerator. (Don’t mistake this for canning as it is not).