Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Real Grape Juice & Granita

There is something so satisfying about growing your own food. But it usually takes time, work and patience.

There is something even more exciting about food that just happens with minimal effort. Grapes are one of those things for us. We were lucky enough to inherit some old, hearty vines with our home. They don't require much effort (a little pruning in winter) and they produce heavenly dark purple grapes.

The only problem, according to our children, is that they contain seeds. Not an issue for most adults but a logistical peeling challenge for our young kids.

When we recently harvested a large case of grapes, I was trying to figure out what I was going to make with that mass of juicy purple fruit.  It had to be minimal effort and something that would be enjoyed by the whole family.

I made the standard grape jelly. Easy.
We ate some fresh. I found seeds everywhere.
Then I decided to make grape juice that I had made last year. Everyone could enjoy that.

Then I decided to try making it more concentrated to make a few different things...the juice is a vibrant and refreshing homage to the vine and the granita is the perfect ending to a meal. A great celebration of those home-grown grapes!

Grape Juice Syrup
I decided to make it a syrupy concentrate, so it wouldn't take up a lot of room to store and it could be used for a few different things- juice (when mixed with water), a sparkling drink (with sparkling water) or a granita. This can be made with any variety of grape but some need more or less sugar depending on sweetness. Try to get locally grown grapes if possible.

2 lbs grapes
2 cups water
1- 1/2 cups cane sugar, or to taste
cheese cloth

1. Wash and stem grapes and place in large saucepan over high heat. Mash with potato masher. Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until flesh entirely breaks down.
2. Place 3 layers of dampened cheesecloth into strainer that is placed over a bowl. Pour grapes over cheesecloth. Let stand for 10-20 minutes or until most of the juice is in the bowl. Gently gather the ends of the cheesecloth and gently squeeze a few more drops out of the flesh. Do not press hard or you will get bits in the juice.
3. Return juice to clean pan over low heat and add sugar to taste until dissolved. It should be fairly sweet for a syrup.
4. Bottle and store in the fridge or freezer (allow room for expansion). It should last about a week in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.

To use:
For grape juice: dilute with approximately half water and serve over ice
For sparkling grape juice: dilute with sparkling water
For granita: place in shallow glass or metal dish and freeze. Stir with fork every 30 minutes for a few hours until the right consistency. Takes about 4-6 hours.