Our neighbor's grape vines are loaded right now and even though I'd love to wash my hands of food preservation at this point, I can't ignore free fruit. I'm incapable.
For some of us, concord grapes can prove to be...well...itchy. Just pulling them off the stems is fine, but when I start separating the pulp and skins, my hands start reacting. I can usually make it through my task, but by the end of it, I'm about crawling out of my skin. Washing my hands and lower arms doesn't provide relief, so I sit and itch my hands for a solid 15 minutes until the worst of it passes.
I learned about this reaction the hard way the first fall we lived here when Sam reacted to the grapes while helping me. I felt so bad for the boy. He seemed to grow out of it (and Sadie never reacted this way) which was great, but poor Miriam...she had peeled (by hand) and eaten about 20 of them before her little mouth, chin and hands started itching like crazy. I plumb forgot what it can do to my little people. Itching for her, lots of empathy and some cortisone cream ensued and about a half hour later it abated and she was fine. And has steered clear of the grapes since.
So, go out and get yourself some grapes, but consider yourself warned (Note: None of us react to them once they're cooked).
The other week I made grape jam and this past week, I readied grape pie filling. This past weekend, Jamey made juice. I know of two juice-making methods that do not require a fancy juicer. The first requires no special equipment and involves placing whole grapes, water and sugar into canning jars and processing them (recipe and instructions here). The other method, which we used this past weekend, is fast becoming our favorite. There is no sugar involved- only pure grape-y goodness. This time, we just froze a handful of quarts of the concentrate, drinking a good portion of it fresh shortly after making it, but it can be canned (see below) and we'll do that next time.
Straight Grape Juice (inspired by Joy)
ripe concord grapes, removed from stems and rinsed
Place all grapes in a pot suited to hold the amount you have. Bring them to a boil (don't add water- they make plenty of juice) while mashing them up a bit using a potato masher. Simmer for 20 minutes until the grapes are very soft. Transfer the cooked grapes in batches to a food mill. Here you have two choices. Turning the food mill the normal direction will give you a very thick grape juice that would compare to extra-pulp orange juice. It can be diluted, but you will still have some "pulp-y" texture to your juice. If you don't mind this, by all means, make the juice this way. You'll use more of the grapes and end up with more juice. Your second choice (the one we choose) is to run the food mill the opposite direction (as if you're trying to skim out the mill). This scrapes the grapes through, giving you mostly juice with a little bit of "pulp".
Chill the juice (what comes through the mill) and drink or freeze. You can add water to thin it if you like or use it in it's potent form. It's delicious.
To Can Straight Juice (per The Ball Book of Complete Home Preserving) : Cover and chill the juice for 24 to 48 hours to allow the sediment (a.k.a. pulp) to settle. Ladle or pour the juice into a large saucepan, being careful not to disturb the pulp on the bottom or strain the juice through a sieve. Bring the juice to an almost boil (190 degrees F, 88 degrees C) for 5 minutes. Ladle the hot juice into hot jars, leaving adequate headspace. Top with hot lids and screw rings on finger-tip tight. Place jars in canner of boiling water (jars should be covered). Process quart jars for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid and boil an additional 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.