This post is actually 2 years in the making. Last summer (2019) was the first time in years the Japanese Beetles did not destroy my chances of getting grapes from the Concord grape vines on our property. We treated for them (more about that later) so I was lucky to get about a half bushel of grapes. I chose to make juice from the grapes. I canned the juice ASAP. The plan was to make jelly over the winter. Then the old trelles crashed to the ground about mid Jan and I just forgot about the jelly until about a week ago. So we started all over by cutting the vines back building a new trellis and making jelly from canned juice.
To begin with if you have older vines or like us we had a very old trellis system that did not function well for two large heavy vines you might consider pruning your grape vine back. Grape vines produce much better when the vines are short and pruned regularly. In my case the trellis collapsed before we got time to replace it, forcing me to prune back the vines in the cold weather to get the old trellis out. When I was done our vines were about 4 feet long compared to 16 feet.
Tom and I talked about how beautiful a grapevines could be even if you didn’t use the grapes. I wanted something that was just as pretty in the yard as functional. I also wanted to be able to walk under the trellis if we were working in the near by vegetable graden. So this is what we came up with. The Trellis is 6 foot 6 inches high made 8 feet apart on the inside. We cemented the 4×4 posts into the ground so they would not move.Everything is pressure treated and we used 2×4 hangers to create the top. After this stage I added some recycled garden wire to the top to give the vines something hold onto as they grow. Then we waited for the vines to get long enough to put on the trellis. In about 4 mouths they had grown 5 or more feet and I could begin to train the vines using zip ties and string. After a couple hours the longest vines were secured and ready to grow for the rest of the summer. Next year I should have a nice place to pick my grapes.
for more info about the pruning a old grape vine check out this grapevine post.
As I said before we treated for Japanese Beetles. We also have a huge sugar ant problem in the house. So I used our fertilizer spreader to spread a yard pest insecticide in the back yard and around the foundation of our house. It was a game changer, very few bettles … stopped the mole damage we were getting from them looking for the beetle grubs and reduced the ants in the house. I don’t plan to treat again for several years. I would like to see if we can keep the beetle problem under control with a more natural soap and water treatment for a while but this brought a balance back to my yard for a while.
Part two: The best part of having grapes is grape juice and jelly. Both are easy to make at home and do not require a pressure canner. We follow The Ball Jar Company recipes to cann our juice and make jelly
Grape Juice: Wash all the grapes, removing all stems and leaves. Then place all the grapes in a large stock pot with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by a inch or two. Around a cup per gallon of grapes. Bring grapes to a simmer crushing the grapes with a potato masher as the heat rises. Simmer 10 minutes. Don’t boil this releases the bitterness from the seeds into the juice. Strain through a couple layers cheesecloth to remove seeds. Let juice stand 24 hours or overnight to cool if possible before straining a second time. Prepare for the rest of the process by gathering up either a jelly bag or using several layers if cheesecloth. For this batch of juice I used 4 layers of cheesecloth, rinsing between about every two cups of juice. I think I spent more time rinsing out the clothe out then straining the juice. In the end I had 6 quarts of juice with no sugar and nothing artificial. It was worth it in the end. If you want to cann the juice as a cocktail add 1 or 2 cup sugar per gallon of juice.
Canning the Juice: I planned to make Jelly from the juice so I did not want to add any sugar. If you were going to drink the juice like a cocktail you would need sugar to make it taste good enough to drink.
As always wash and sterilize your quart jars, lids and seals as you heat your juice to a hot simer. Remove from heat and fill jars with hot juice. leaving a 1/4 inch head space wiping the top lip of jar. Place jars in a boiling water bath canner. Make sure each jar is covered fully with water and follow the directions in the Ball Canning Blue Book. Mine is a 1949 version and a 1991 version…. They both say the same thing.
Reheat to a simmer, pour into clean hot jars. Process 30 minutes in hot water bath at 185 -190 degrees.
For a great online store link to all things Ball Mason Jar.
Making Jelly: Canned juice is good for up to a year but your grape juice may look clouded in the jar… don’t worry you still get beautiful clear Jelly.
To quote my ball guide it is better to us canned juice then fresh!
The use of unsweetened, canned juice prevents the formation of Cream of Tartar crystals from forming in the jelly. After the juice is canned the crystals form and fall to the bottom. The canned juice should be strained through cheesecloth before using and the sediment at the bottom should not be used.The Ball Blue Book of Home Canning , Preserving and Freezing Recipes CR 1949.
Cooking the Jelly: As always prepare lids rings and jars by washing and sterilizing. If using prepared juice, measure exact amount of juice into a 6 to 8 quart stockpot. Add water if necessary to get exact measurement. measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl with a dry measuring cup. Add juice to a large stock pot then sugar and mix well. Add 1 tsp butter to help reduce foaming( I do not do this with grape jelly but I do with others). Bring mixture to a rolling boil, one that cannot be reduced when stirred, boil 1 minute stirring constantly. Quickly add pectin and return to a rolling boil 1 minute, then remove from heat. I personaly do a sheeting test before I remove from the heat. if when a teaspoon of jelly sheets from the spoon it is ready. Sheeting is when you scoop up a teaspoon of jelly and slowly pour it back into the pot but some jells to the spoon and slowly slides off in a sold sheet. Then I remove from the heat and scrape as much foam off as I can before ladeling into prepared jars. filling jars leaving a 1/4 inch headspace.Wipe jars with a damp rag and add seals and rings. Place in warm water in canner until 1 to 2 inches of water covers jars. Bring water to boil, process at a boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and let cool 24 hours before deciding if there is problem with the jelling.
If everything goes according to plan you should have about 7 half pint jelly jars of homemade Concord grape jelly.
Well, it has been a long journey from picking our first grapes to making a new trellis, canning juice and finally making the jelly. I hope you find this helpful and it makes it possible to make your own Jams and jellies. My family loves homemade jelly so I am happy to have the vines.