Monday, November 11, 2013

All Juiced Up!

Halloween zoomed by without a post from me.
This year there was a Dalmatian who wanted to be read to.

His idea of a great trick or treat item is shoes.
Big shoes.
Oh wait...he is a dog so of course he was "fetching" shoes!
His other grandparents tuned in via Facetime on Halloween so three out of the four of us grands got to be in on the fun. 
Poor Bernie was stuck back in South Carolina with a brand new iPhone that just would NOT let him do a Facetime!
Oh the trials of new technology!

Two days later Bernie flew home and turned the big 6-0.
It was a quiet event as up until the last minute it looked like he would not be able to come home to celebrate it in time at all.
Being home for a dinner at a Greek restaurant, time with me, the kids and the grandson and a balloon turned out to be satisfying enough celebrating for him.

Nov 1-2 there was another celebration going on.
It is a Mexican "Day of the Dead" holiday that is gaining some traction here.
"The Day of the Dead" has some folks dressing as folkloric skeletons and partying in costume again.
It is the special "Day of the Dead" bread that is available at Mexican grocery stores that has me looking forward to the day.
Oh so yummy!

I've been neglecting my blog mostly because I have been super busy with a new project:
Making grape juice from the five different kinds of grapes that grow in my neighborhood.
In my neighborhood there are Delaware grapes, which are pea sized pinky red grapes, Concord, which are marble sized deep purple round grapes, green seedless grapes, (which grow in clusters that are often two feet long!), red seedless grapes that grow in as an elongated sphere with reddish blush striped skin.
There was one more deep purple grape that was also pea sized.

I gleaned/foraged over six grocery sacks full of grapes from back fences where no one was picking the grapes at all; the grapes were beginning to fall to the ground without notice.

What did I know about making grape juice?
Until a couple of weeks ago, absolutely nothing.
For the past five autumn I have basically ignored our fence full of Delaware grapes since each pea sized grape had three seeds in it.  Too many seeds to mess with for just eating off the vine.
I tried making fresh juice by crushing grapes in a strainer.
Whew.  That was a crazy hard work. 
Finally I decided there must be a trick to making grape juice.
Googled it...oh my goodness.
Way easy!

Here's the scoop:
Rinse the grapes and pull each grape free of the stem.
Pop them into a pot and barely cover the grapes with water.
Crush the grapes with a potato masher or immersion blender.
Add a very tiny bit of butter (less than a quarter teaspoon) to keep the foaming down while the grapes boil.
Boil at a fairly high heat for 10 minutes or longer if you want.
Let sit and cool.
Pour the mix through a colander to strain out the big chunks then again through a fine sieve to remove any smaller seeds or chunks.

The strained out bits went off  to the compost pile.
I did keep the seedless grape skins though.
They tasted like they would make an interesting side dish.

I poured the strained out grape juice into gallon sized freezer zip lock bags.
The colors are so pretty and each kind of juice has a unique flavor.
An added bonus: the juice is concentrated.
Each frozen gallon will eventually make two gallons of juice later.

It is a tad bit of a messy project.
I had some trial and error methodology for straining and pouring into the bags.

A glass of Delaware grape juice.
In the end I made ten gallons of grape juice.
It kills me to see the grapes that are being ignored on the inside of fences and in gardens around here.
The grape leaves have turned yellow and fallen now so I can see the grapes that will freeze and feed birds in the winter.
(It is probably for the best that after freezing a few gallons of fresh apricots this summer and making several gallons of soup, my freezer space was tight. Otherwise I think I would have been knocking on people's doors and asking if I could harvest the rest of their grapes!
And since I was foraging for grapes, I also noted which apple trees were dropping apples in the neighborhood.
I found four varieties and either picked or picked up a sack or two of apples to make stewed apples.
Another trial and error process: At first I followed a recipe to make a sweetened and cinnamon flavored apple sauce in my crock pot.
It was OK...
Then I just stewed the apples with nothing added at all.
That was the ticket for me.
I could add other flavors, like French vanilla coffee creamer or praline pecan coffee creamer later.
I serve it up hot in the morning, and we eat it cold too.
I made 25 cups of stewed apples.
I am still eyeing apple trees...maybe we really do need a full sized chest freezer if we want to be able to have all this frozen fruit bounty year around.

It is fun to stroll around the neighborhood and enjoy the fall colors.

My Autumn Welcome will get changed to a "Give Thanks" sign soon.

Out on the deck the fall colors arrive in our lower lot.

Pumpkins are parked randomly about.
I am considering trying to freeze some pumpkin soup and roasted pumpkin pulp later.

These photo were taken just two weeks ago.
As I type this, the trees have gone completely bare.

A wind came up and chased a lot of the color away.

I am glad I captured some of the color before that happened.

(Tate was startled by a bird overhead.)
We have had four snowfalls since Oct 1.
Mount Olympus seems to be settling into winter white early this year.

The fifth snow fall left inches of snow behind, not just a dusting, but the inches melted away and soon it was back to warm sunny "sit out on the deck" weather again.
I've read that this may be a very cold winter and I believe it.
We really need a lot of snow pack build up in the mountains to prevent drought so each bit of early snow is welcomed by me.
So question:
Have you ever made grape juice?
I read that the same process works for raspberries and other berries too.
Have you ever tried to make berry juice?


ellen b. said...

That's a lot of juice making! Such a cute little dalmation. I'm glad your guy made it back to celebrate!

Lovella ♥ said...

You have been busy! Good for you. Your little Dalmatian will surely enjoy that antioxidant rich grape juice all winter long.
My mom had a big steamer where she would put all the grapes in the top of a massive double boiler. The juice was released out of a spigot at the bottom of the pot.

Vee said...

No. We don't have grapes. Sounds like a worthy project and a successful one. That's the cutest Dalmatian ever. Hope that Bernie had an amazing birthday.

Julie said...

Ohhh .. funny about you picking all those grapes ! I said to Vic only yesterday that I would just love to stand in some vineyard and eat grapes until I really did not want any more !
I have never made grape juice but I bet yours is wonderful.