Michigan Concords – Another Casualty of Old Man Winter

I have been so busy with other things lately, that canning anything hasn’t made it onto my to do list, let alone crossed my mind. Last weekend, however, as some of my major projects have been winding down, I began wondering if Concord grapes were ready for picking yet.

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Friday morning I called the only farm within 50 miles for grape picking and found out grape season was already closed. WHAT! How could that be? Concords don’t usually even ripen until the beginning of October here in Michigan, how could the season already be done?

Well, apparently the harsh Michigan weather we endured last winter took its toll on the grape crops and the season was very short and not very plentiful. Discouraged, I began to look for farms that were further out, but still feasible. There were none.

My only other option was to start calling farmer’s markets and see if anyone had grapes I could buy. Monday morning I called my favorite farm, Verellen Farms, and found out they had Michigan Concords. I drove there immediately, and by 9 a.m. was back home with 3 pecks of Concords for processing.

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For two days now I’ve been working on grape juices, jams, spreads, and syrup. Check out Simply Grateful Canning for my posts on Concord Grape Juice Revisited, Updated, & Expanded – Cran Grape JuiceCran-Grape Syrup & Spread, and Cran-Grape Jam – Not Traditional.

I’ve got about a peck left and with that I think I might try an old-fashioned recipe for grape juice to compare it with the easy recipe I’ve done for two years now.

Michigan weather can be brutal, especially when it comes to fruit trees. Thankfully this year I was still able to get some Concords, enough to stock the pantry for a good year or more, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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SUCCESS! Concord Grape Juice Update

Back in October I posted a recipe for Easy Concord Grape Juice.  This was the first time I had made this recipe and would not have the results for a few months.

This morning I decided it had been long enough.  Looking at those jars full of tantalizing purple liquid with grapes floating up on top was just too much, I had to crack one open and see what it had become.

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Breaking the seal on the lid, I could immediately smell the sweet aroma of concord grapes.  It smelled just like the Welch’s grape juice concentrate I’ve bought in the freezer section at the grocery store.

With a strainer over a small juice glass, I poured a small amount of juice out of the quart bottle.  The color was not as dark as the store-bought, but the smell was certainly as strong.

Lifting the glass to my lips, I slowly took a sip and WOW!  It’s definitely grape juice.

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical.  I really didn’t think that 1 cup of grapes among all that water and sugar would have a chance of becoming the dominant flavor, but it was.

Admittedly, I did not take a second sip of the juice as it was.  It was on the sweeter side, so I added an ice-cube and about as much water as there was juice in the glass.  Perfect.

So, when I do this again next year I plan on using either less sugar and then I’d be able to drink the juice straight from the bottle (after strained) or adding more grapes and possibly a little less sugar and then calling it a concentrate.  I’m not sure, but this is definitely a keeper, it just needs a bit of tweaking.

I love it when a new recipe turns out on the first try.  Success to me is anything that doesn’t need to be thrown away. Having to make changes to the recipe is not a big deal, in fact that’s all part of the fun of cooking, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Easy Concord Grape Juice

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Back a month or so ago while I was working with some concord grapes, I decided to give a recipe a try for what promised to be an easy concord grape juice.  I have juiced grapes in the past by steaming them or by cooking them to extract as much juice as possible, and although not the most difficult job in the world, it can be somewhat time-consuming.  This new recipe intrigued me because there was no fuss and very little prep involved — something I really needed during a busy canning period.

So here it is:

Easy Concord Grape Juice

  • 1 Cup Concord Grapes stemmed and washed
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • Hot Water

That’s all the ingredients you will need for each quart jar of juice.

Instructions:

To each hot quart jar add 1 cup of grapes, 1 cup of sugar, and then fill jar to top, leaving 1/4 inch head space with hot water.  Cap and process in water bath for 25 minutes.  Put on pantry shelf and let sit for 2 to 3 months.

That’s it!  Easy enough, don’t you think.

Well, I made seven quarts of juice using this recipe and have let them sit on the shelf in the pantry for the past month.  In another month or two I will crack open my first jar and see how they’ve turned out.

Has anyone ever tried making grape juice this way?

I’m not sure if this is going to turn out, but regardless if it’s the best grape juice I’ve every tasted or not, I’m sure that I can use it for something.  If nothing else, I can use it in place of water in some of my lemonade concentrates.  Nothing ever goes to waste around here.

It is so much fun to try something new every once in a while, especially when it is quick and easy, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

They’re Grape!

Finding a new recipe that immediately becomes a family favorite is one of my favorite things.  When something turns out so well that everyone loves it, I don’t mind whatever it takes to make it.  Good thing, because this particular recipe using Concord grapes is not the quickest or easiest to prepare, but one that I’ve already made three times since I discovered that Concords could be used for more than just jam.

Concord Grape Muffins

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  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 6 Tbsp. Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Seeded Concord Grapes

Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Cold Butter

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add butter and blend with pastry blender.  Add milk and stir until combined.  Fold in grapes. Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin tins.

For topping, combine flour and sugar in bowl.  Add butter and with pastry blender, mix until crumbly.  Sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

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This might sound fairly easy, but seeding Concord grapes is not the easiest.  A sharp knife and patience is definitely a help, but I found that freezing them and then splitting and seeding also makes it much easier.

Using an old favorite to make a new favorite is a great way to start my day, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Concord Grape Muffins

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Print

 

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 6 Tbsp. Butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Cup Seeded Concord Grapes

Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Cold Butter

Directions

  1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add butter and blend with pastry blender.  Add milk and stir until combined.  Fold in grapes. S.poon into greased or paper-lined muffin tins.
  2. For topping, combine flour and sugar in bowl.  Add butter and with pastry blender, mix until crumbly.  Sprinkle on top of muffins.
  3. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Cooking Notes

This might sound fairly easy, but seeding Concord grapes is not the easiest.  A sharp knife and patience is definitely a help, but I found that freezing them and then splitting and seeding also makes it much easier.

Recipe by: Tilly Frueh, Simply Grateful Housewife at https://simplygratefulhousewife.wordpress.com/ – 2014

Concord Grapes — Not Just For Jam

Have you ever had Concord grape pie?  Better yet, how about Concord grape muffins?  Well until you have, you just have not lived.

I’d never thought about using concord grapes for anything other than jam, jelly and syrup, until I started researching other options on the internet a few weeks ago.  Am I glad I did.  I came across several ideas, including the pie and muffins, that I could hardly wait to give a try.  The pie filling was an immediate hit with hubby.  I first canned the tarter of the two batches of Concords I had and he absolutely loved it.  As always, there was extra that didn’t fill a jar, so he used it on crepes.  Using what I considered to be very little sugar, the tartness of the grapes came through and made for a very interesting filling.

The second batch of filling I used the sweeter grapes.  These were so sweet that even cutting the sugar in half wasn’t enough.  It turned out very sweet.  No worries though.  With this batch I can either mix it with the tarter version when making a pie or better still, mix it with a can of homemade tart cherry pie filling or even rhubarb pie filling.  Having both of these in the pantry is certainly going to come in handy.

Concord Grape Pie Filling

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  • 20 Cups Whole Concord Grapes
  • 2 Cups Sugar for tart grapes, 1 Cup Sugar for sweeter
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Cup Clear Jel mixed with Water

The hardest part of making the pie filling is preparing the grapes.  This is definitely not for the faint of heart.  It is truly a labor of love.  Can you think of any other cliché’s I can put in here?  Hopefully you get my point — it’s a whole lot of work!

After washing and stemming the grapes comes separating the pulp from the skins.  It’s not difficult popping the pulp from the skins, just terribly time-consuming.  It took me over an hour to pop the centers from the skins of enough grapes for one batch and this was with the help of Grace.

Once the pulp is separated from the skins, place the skins in a stock pot and bring to a boil.  At this point I like to use my stick blender to make sure the pulp separates as much as possible from the seeds.  Once all the pulp is mush and it’s been boiling for about 10 minutes, strain out the seeds.  This can be done with a food mill, but I just used a mesh strainer.  The stick blender really made quick work of the pulp and after only a few stirs, all the pulp came through the strainer leaving only seeds behind.

Next, return the seedless pulp to the stock pot, add in the skins, sugar, lemon juice and Clear Jel slurry, and bring back to a boil.  Be very careful when bringing this to a boil.  Typically I cannot let it come to a rolling boil because it is so thick it splatters terribly.  Being that it has to be stirred constantly so as not to burn, medium-high heat until it just comes to a boil seems to be the best advice. It will already be very thick and a rolling boil isn’t necessary.

Then it’s time to ladle into hot jars and process in a water bath for 35 minutes.  That’s it!  Okay, that is quite an understatement, but it is truly worth the effort.

To use, pour a jar into a pie crust, top with another crust or crumble if you prefer, and bake at 450 for 25 minutes covered with foil.  Remove foil, decrease oven temp to 350 and bake another 30 minutes.  Of course using a jar on crepes, pancakes, or Belgium waffles is a great option as well.  Just open, heat, and serve.  Hubby even likes it cold!

Concords are far more versatile than I ever gave them credit for.  Next year I am most definitely going to be grape picking more than I have in the past.  Now that I know there is far more to grapes than just jelly, I can’t wait to explore all the possibilities, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Concords — Another Taste of Fall

Pumpkins, apples, and pears are certainly the traditional fruits of fall, but let’s not forget concord grapes.

The past month has been extremely hectic so finding time to go grape picking was not in the cards.  Thankfully there are some wonderful people in my life and I was graced with two deliveries of grapes for me to can.  One batch was super sweet and the other was more on the tart side.  This worked out perfectly for making different tasting jellies, syrups, spreads, and juice.

The first thing I decided to make with the Concords was a batch of grape jelly.  For this I used the sweeter grapes so I could use as little sugar as I wanted with Clear Jel as the thickening agent.  The consistency is absolutely perfect.  It spreads like softened butter.

Concord Grape Jelly

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  • 3 Cups Concord Grape Juice
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. Clear Jel mixed with 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

The hardest part of making grape jelly is separating the grapes from the stems.  Once that is done, just throw the grapes in a stock pot and with an immersion blender puree the grapes, seeds and all.  By pureeing the grapes this way, there is no need to add any water that would dilute the grape juice.

After the grapes have enough juice in the pan to prevent scorching, put the stock pot on the stove and turn it up to medium-high.  Stirring constantly, bring the grapes to a near boil.  As the grapes heat up, juice will begin to flow.  Take the stick blender once again and give the grapes a good run through, being sure to puree the grapes as much as possible.

Remove the grapes from the stove and spoon mixture into a strainer to separate the juice from the seeds and skins.  The result will be pure grape juice.

Measure 3 cups of grape juice, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and lemon juice back into the stock pot.  Combine the Clear Jel with water and stir the slurry into the grape juice mixture in the stock pot.  Turn the heat to medium-high and stir constantly until jelly thickens.  Do not let it boil too fast as it will be very thick and will splatter.  Once it reaches a full boil, remove from heat and ladle into hot jars.  Cap jars and process for 15 minutes in a water bath.

There is nothing like the sweet smell of Concords in the kitchen as the grapes simmer on the stove.  How wonderful it is to have such generous people in my life, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.