Do you love grapes? Do you have a favorite variety? I am no respecter of grapes and basically love eating all kinds out of hand – even heavy handed, seeded ones like Scuppernogs. For making juice, though, it has to be the famous Concord grape. Why Concord grapes? I thought you’d never ask.
Why Concord Grapes?
First of all, fresh fruits and veggies are a part of any healthy diet. Here’s some nutritional information on Concord grapes from the Concord Grape Association . Did you know we had such an association? Well, we do.
Basically, though, I love Concord grapes for one reason – they taste divine. Plus, they’re adaptable to different growing conditions so I can grow them myself in my backyard. Oh, that’s two reasons.
Can I Grow Concord Grapes?
If you haven’t planted grapes on your homestead, I urge you to consider doing so! Grapes, unlike fruit trees, will bear in two to three years of being planted. Plus, they don’t require nearly as much vertical space as a fruit tree.
For those who don’t care for the seeds, there are a number of seedless varieties, including Concords.
Their cultural requirements are pretty basic:
- organic matter in the soil
- the correct pH (grapes like something between 7.0 and 8.0)
You can visit this basic link to learn more about how to grow Concords. Like all grapes, Concords do require attention to frost dates and powdery mildew. Here’s a post from Reformation Acres about picking the best mulch for your grapes – click here. Grapes have pretty shallow roots so keeping their area weed-free is important and mulch can help with that.
You will also want to trellis your Concord grapes onto something but they aren’t picky about what they grown on. They can even be used to cover an unsightly fence or to create a privacy screen.
Don’t be intimidated by pruning grapes, either – you can totally do it. Pruning is often more art than science so just read up, have confidence and try it. Even my kids get in on pruning because grapes are more simple to prune than some other plants, like fruit trees.
Here’s a link to a video on Youtube. I’m more of a visual learner so I love YouTube! There are A LOT more and I encourage you to investigate.
Lest you think only the grapes are useful, here’s how to Ferment Grape Leaves to eat them in winter by Joybilee Farm. Yeah, really.
I usually buy my edible plants from Raintree Nursery but you can find grape vines pretty much anywhere. Bottom line, if you can grow a veggie garden, you can grow grapes.
Making Concord Grape Juice
You can make good grape juice with any ripe grape and it will taste yummy. However, Concord grapes produce a rich, wholesome flavor that tastes like deep purple. You just look at this stuff and you feel healthy and alive.
To make your own juice, visit this post – its about making plum juice but you follow the same procedure for grape juice.
Beware the Tartars!
Just a note: grapes naturally contain tartrates. With homemade juice, over time, those tartrates solidify into cool crystalline shapes and sink to the bottom of your jar. They won’t harm you but you can filter them out, if you prefer.
Granny Miller has a neat article about tartrates and how Cream of Tartar is derived from them.
Concords have an especially high volume of tartrates in them so you’ll see the crystals more often with them than with other home canned grape juices. I totally want to save mine now, grind them down and see if they’ll work in my next meringue…
Ways to use Homemade Concord Grape Juice
- In our family, we save the amazing Concord grape juice for special occasions, like holidays and birthdays.
- We also use our home-canned Concord grape juice to help the kids gag down their herbal antibiotic tincture which tastes beyond nasty. With the juice added, its a lot more palatable.
- Here’s how to lacto-ferment your juice to make it even healthier! Never heard of lacto-fermenting? No worries, Learning and Yearning explains it nicely here. While you’re on her site, try this recipe for lacto-fermented gelatin.
- Here’s a picture tutorial on making grape jelly from juice, if you’ve never done it before. Here’s a tutorial for jam sweetened with honey from Grow a Good Life. Quick quiz, what’s the difference between jam and jelly? If you said pulp, you were right!
- With you’re homemade jelly, you can make these peanut butter and jelly muffins from Attainable Sustainable.
Do you Need to Sweeten Concord Grape Juice?
Most of the time we don’t even bother to dilute or sweeten the Concord grape juice!
It’s not hard to either sweeten or dilute, though, if you decide you want to do so. If you have a quart of Concord grape juice from steam canning (as opposed to simply canning whole grapes, which is a groovy way to go), it will most likely be pretty concentrated.
- Pour a quart of steam-canned Concord grape juice into a pitcher.
- Add 1-2 quarts of clean water and stir.
- Warm in a medium sized pot to around 100F/38C.
- Add raw sugar or raw honey to taste. Start with 1/4 – 1/2 cup.
- Stir until sweetener is dissolved.
In my family, we mix grape juice and homemade lemonade and combine them to form “Gremon.” Or, we add lime juice to make “Grime”. I don’t think we invented that, but it does go as far back as my Great Grandma Shurtleff. Every time I sip it, I think of her.
The Color of Concord Grapes
I kept trying to get a good photo of the Concord grape juice so that you could see how rich and dark purple it is. However, the juice is so dark that the color in the photo just kept turning out black no matter how fancy a shot I got.
So, here’s a picture of the quart jar that the juice was in, full of water to rinse it – see that lovely purple color? Now just imagine that as thick, pungent juice going down your throat. Aaaah, that hits the spot!
Here’s a little post about using Concord Grapes as a natural dye.
And when you decide to plant grapes, I hope you’ll give Concord’s a try!
Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Pexels user.