Things to do with ALL THE GRAPES? (Concord edition)
September 8, 2016 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I have a giant Concord grape vine on my fenceline. (4' chain link fence, the neighbor planted it. Don't ask.) It produces grapes, yay! OTOH, it produces insane quantities of grapes. Help me figure out what to do with them?

I make juice, but it doesn't really keep, and I already have about 12 quarts. I'm planning on giving some away.

I'm freezing some, but my freezer needs room for stuff like ice cream, too.

I've made jelly in previous years, and will probably make some more this year, but it's tricky to get the right consistency. And to be honest, I'm only so-so about grape jelly.

I've tried making vinegar shrub -- I literally gave away 70lbs this week to someone who does that -- but it went very badly.

What are some other options? Bonus points for shelf-stable or things that make good gifts.

I have a smallish water bath canning setup. I also have a steam juicer. I do not have a chest freezer, altho TBH I might get one this weekend. FWIW, the current state of my fridge....
posted by epersonae to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
what happens if you boil it down to syrup and make popsicles?
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2016

Do they dry well? If so, raisins!
posted by bloggerwench at 2:13 PM on September 8, 2016

There's a small farmer's market near my house on Sunday mornings. There's no cost to the farmers for setting up there. If I saw a table where someone was selling all grapes and nothing but grapes, I'd totally buy some grapes. Is there anything like that near you?
posted by OrangeDisk at 2:14 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

also, this focaccia recipe won't help you with mass amounts, but it still looks so good... if you make it tell us how it is?
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:18 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can...can...the juice, if you like grape juice.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:18 PM on September 8, 2016

can't you can the juice? I've seen instructions in places like the old school Joy of Cooking. May require a pressure canner. Making syrup sounds like a great idea.
posted by genmonster at 2:22 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

We also have Concord grapes - the biggest issue is that they have seeds - lots of 'em.
We use a Squeezo to process out the seeds (head them gently prior to putting them through the Squeezo).
I usually slip the skins off (by hand...) then chop them in a blender and after separating seeds, mix the skins back in and make grape jam. Then it becomes presents - we use a low-sugar mix with Pomona's Pectin, but one must be careful to use it up and refrigerate; sugar is the main preservative in jellies/jams.
So, yeah, lots of work.
We've also canned the juice, but unless it is sweet enough, you should use a pressure canner, or it's a recipe for food poisoning.
Raising wouldn't work so well because of seeds.
Fruit leather is something I've considered, after adding skins back.
Consider offering them up to a local gleaning organization, or to your local food bank.
posted by dbmcd at 2:24 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chateau epersonae 2016?
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:38 PM on September 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I made some grape syrup. The key was allowing the grapes to disintegrate into sugar for hours before putting the mixture through a food mill. A quick boil and simmer, a quick BWB (10 minutes? 15?) and I have shelf-stable syrup to mix with seltzer. MeMail me if you want more specifics.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:46 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The easiest thing we did when we canned everything was make a light grape juice. I know you already have a lot of regular grape juice, but this is probably slightly different... just in case.

Just take a sterile jar, wash the grapes, fill it 1/3 to 1/2 with them, pour boiling water over them to fill jar, then seal and let sit for a bit. If you put it in the refrigerator it will keep for a month or two. We'd let them cool a bit and then can them in an open bath. Its much lighter than regular grape juice and I've always liked it better.
posted by Tchad at 2:54 PM on September 8, 2016

A coworker made grape pie from her Concords and - I am not kidding here - that is why I now have Concord grapes growing in my yard. It was THAT good. (Bonus, it's possible to can or freeze pie filling for future use!) This isn't her recipe, but it'll give you a starting place.
posted by VioletU at 3:04 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Get a heavy-duty dehydrator because you'll be dealing with this every year.

Then do raisins, raisins, more raisins, and fruit leather.
posted by aniola at 3:07 PM on September 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also everyone saying syrup has a really good point. It takes up less space, and grapes are typically used as a sweetener because they're all sugar.

And I'm pretty sure this is in fact why they invented wine.
posted by aniola at 3:09 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The idea of a living, ideally balsamic, Concord grape vinegar fills me with a deep-seated longing.

I wouldn't doubt that it's probably completely infeasible, but still.
posted by jamjam at 3:13 PM on September 8, 2016

Yeah, wine.
posted by notyou at 3:18 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you can separate out the seeds, then boil it all down and make fruit leather on sheets in a very low heat oven.
posted by oxisos at 3:42 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for wine. It is way easier to make than beer or cider (I have done them all). And fun!
posted by solotoro at 3:47 PM on September 8, 2016

I had read somewhere that Concords don't make good wine! Though to be honest, that looks like some intense work. Yipes.

I'm liking the idea of syrup, tho, since we're already drinking it diluted with sometimes a dash of sugar.

I have spent every evening this week cleaning grapes, so at the moment, anything that starts with "separate out the seeds" makes my head spin. It looks like a food mill is in my future.

(We've lived in this house, with this grape vine, for about a dozen years. About 5 years ago I finally read up on how to trim it properly, and since then every year has been GRAPE MADNESS for like 3 weeks. But this year we basically picked all of them at once in a single afternoon. I'm determined not to end up throwing away as much as I did last year.)
posted by epersonae at 3:47 PM on September 8, 2016

Seconding pie. Concord grape pie is delicious. I've never made one, so I'm not sure how you're supposed to deal with the seeds, but I made grape jam once and discovered that the seeds float readily and are easy to skim off of the top of the mashed pulp.
posted by quaking fajita at 3:48 PM on September 8, 2016

Foodbanks and wildlife rescues will often take donations of fresh produce. These folks, or these might be interested.
posted by bethnull at 4:47 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't let wine seem daunting! You can make wine from them for sure! It'll turn out more like a Muscat desert wine; certainly more sweet than a regular table wine. I have access to a bajillion plums each summer, so I make up anywhere from 5-15 gallons of wine a year. It's REALLY EASY once you purchase a basic winemakers kit. You can find them on craigslist (search for beer brewing kit, most of the gear translates over) for pennies.

There are only a couple steps to making wine (we've been doing it as humans FOREVER). Granted, you can get pretty complicated with winemaking, but on the surface it's really, really, really easy to get something drinkable. Aside from the first couple steps, most of these are like 20 minute projects you do every couple months. It's not scary I promise! Typically, winemaking goes like this (your recipe might deviate a little bit in one direction or another).

1. Mash up the grapes. Place them, skins, seeds and all, in a bucket, lined with a mesh bag.
2. Add in the adjuncts your recipe calls for (usually some, camden tablets, pectic enzyme, powdered acid blend, and maybe some tannin if the grapes are naturally low in it).
3. Wait a day, then add some yeast and yeast nutrient.
4. Let it hang out for two weeks, stirring it every other day (with a sanitized metal spoon or spatula).
5. "Rack" the wine (ie, transfer it to a glass container, while leaving the solids behind).
6. Wait two months. Rack the wine into another glass container.
7. Wait wo months and do it all again.
8. Bottle it (feel free to just use sanitized beer bottles and crown-caps...easier than real wine bottles). Wait a couple months before you crack into it.

Bonus points; if you make the wine, you can take it the next step and make a vinegar from said wine.

posted by furnace.heart at 4:49 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Grape Syrup


1¼ cups grape purée
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice

Yield: About 2 half-pint jars

To Prepare Purée: Wash and stem ripe grapes. In a large saucepot heat grapes at a low heat setting for 8 to 10 minutes to loosen skins. DO NOT BOIL. Put through a food mill or wide mesh strainer. Discard skins and seeds.

To Make Syrup: Sterilize canning jars. Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil about 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Pour into hot half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims. Adjust lids and process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:14 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

No advice for using this year's crop, but next year maybe offer in your local town's facebook group (or a local gardening or cheapskates group, etc) for folks to come over and pick some themselves on specified days that you can be there? Or at least offer to people--ANY and ALL people--you know personally. Or craigslist, again being careful that you trust the folks coming over (or just a porch pickup of already harvested grapes). I've put bags of plants with a note on them saying what they were on my curb and won $5 from my DH when they were taken in a matter of hours. You could set bags of them out with a huge note saying FREE CONCORD GRAPES ENJOY if your street is well traveled.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 5:14 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Make grape candy! Lollipops and swizzle sticks come to mind for me. And Popsicles, too! Yum yum yum.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:42 PM on September 8, 2016

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has instructions for making canned grape juice, no pressure canner required.

They also have instructions fro grape jelly with pectin, which makes the whole consistency issue much easier.

And a recipe for canned whole grapes, though I am not at all sure what one does with canned whole grapes.
posted by Adridne at 6:06 PM on September 8, 2016

Might be too late in the season for this now, but you might try making verjus? It's the juice from the unripened grapes --- good in lots of recipes, sort of like a more mild version of vinegar.
posted by Diablevert at 7:21 PM on September 8, 2016

As others have said "pie" is the answer. It is the best answer. And yes, you will need a food mill but so worth it.
posted by darksong at 7:57 PM on September 8, 2016

Don't forget stuffed grape leaves! I don't have a good recipe handy, but my cousin used to harvest leaves from my grandmother's grape vines to make them. They were so goooood.
posted by Aquifer at 9:24 PM on September 8, 2016

Or take the wine a step further and go for Concord brandy!
posted by sammyo at 10:16 PM on September 8, 2016

Let them dry in the sun. Pack them in jars with rum. Give away liberally to friends and family. It won't spoil for ages, and you (they) can use both the fruit and the infused rum, and you will possibly be the recipient of lovely baked goods with rum raisins as a key feature.
posted by ananci at 12:15 AM on September 9, 2016

The thing about the wine is that American grape species supposedly make wine with a "foxy" flavour which is considered a flaw. Some people think actually, it's not a fault, it's just different, and the beverage should be considered on its own merits and not compared with wine made from Vitis vinifera. There's no harm in trying and making your own mind up.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:48 AM on September 9, 2016

My CSA has been giving us way too many grapes this year, have been searching out recipes myself. Some of the ones I've liked this year:

Scones - add small grapes to scone dough as you would for any fresh berry. Also good for freezing for later. Made these yesterday, were actually quite good.

Grapes also go well in Greek salad, who knew?!

Roast grapes with olive oil and rosemary - good tapenade for pairing with goat cheese on a charcuterie platter.
posted by lizbunny at 6:20 AM on September 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

For Concord grape pie, you just need a food mill to deal with the seeds. You can make a big batch of the filling and freeze it. Here's a good recipe.
posted by neroli at 8:00 AM on September 9, 2016

Don't let wine seem daunting!

This! The thing about wine is yes, you can find wildly complicated recipes, but also you can find super simple ones. Just find an easy one and try it, and if it doesn't go so great you're out very little time. Feel free to MeMail me if you want a more wonky explanation of why I think you'll do great!
posted by solotoro at 2:33 PM on September 10, 2016

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