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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Grape Fiasco

The original title of this post was Dehydrating Grapes. Here is the tale of how it turned into The Grape Fiasco.

There is a grape vine here that is about 25 years old. It came with the house. We have never grown grapes before and don't know much about them besides what we have read. This is the first year it has produced any measurable harvest since we got it up on a trellis.

Since we have had much more rain this summer than we have in the past two years, I was happy to see so many grapes growing and began to think about what I could try to do with them when they became ripe.

I picked them all a few days ago. I had been watching to see when most of them were ripe.








I thought it would be good to try my hand at raisins. So I got out my book on drying foods. I knew the grapes had seeds, but I thought I could cut them in half (so I wouldn't have to blanch them) and take the seed out, put them on the dehydrator trays and be ready to make raisins. Wrong! It is basically impossible to get the seeds out of the meat of the grape without taking all of the meat with it. This turned out to be the wrong choice for these grapes. This would work great with seedless grapes, just not with these. 

So, on to plan B.


I took all of the grapes off of the vines, picked out the bad ones and put the good ones in a pot on the stove to cook down so I could run them through the strainer (like I did the tomatoes for tomato sauce). I mashed the grapes with the potato masher and was pleased with this small amount of grape mush. Since we had finished canning tomato sauce and completed the regular chores, this was all we did yesterday. Today when I got home from work, I got the grape mush out and heated it up a little so it would be easier to scoop into the strainer. This is only the second time we have used this strainer attachment. We got everything set up, and put a small crock under the mixing bowl so the juice wouldn't splash like the tomato sauce did.

Everything was set and we started pouring the grape mush into the strainer. Before we had poured in all of the second cup, the strainer started kind of wiggling and making a grinding kind of noise. We thought it wasn't put together tight 
enough. Well, we don't really know what happened, but the seeds had jammed up into the screw and mesh strainer mechanism so tightly that it shot off of the machine when Frank finally got the ring loosened up enough. 
Then it took him another 15-20 minutes with an ice pick just to get all of the impacted seeds out of the two pieces. After he thought  he might have it all, he realized the screw piece still had a bunch of stuff stuck in it. What a chore!

In the meantime, I had gone on to Plan C, which didn't work either. I thought maybe I could just squeeze it through a cheese cloth and call it good. But I realized I would be throwing away a lot of the pulp that I wanted to keep. 

Now, onto Plan D. Hrumph! I got out a fine mesh strainer and started mashing the mush through with a large metal spoon. Now I know some of you are starting to chuckle. We felt like a quick little batch of our first grape butter from our first
harvest of grapes was turning into a major chore and dirtying up everything in the kitchen on a Friday evening after a busy week. And we were still going to do a production pizza run when we finished with this!



Well, it did get finished. After I had pressed it through the strainer, I  heated it up again, tasted it, and added a little sugar to cut the tart whang.
 



Here is our grape harvest for the year. I don't know what I will do with next year's crop. Really, I hope the seedless grapes I planted last year are ready to start producing, because I would rather have raisins. The really funny thing about this whole project is that neither one of us like grape juice or jelly. All that work for one pint of stuff we don't really like. But then again, it is growing here, it is something to eat, it has good nutritional value and it may end up being very important that we eat whatever grows here. There may come a day that we would be happy to eat things we never thought we would. As I was finishing up this grape butter thinking 'all of that work for one jar of stuff we don't really like', I realized how grateful I should be for the chance to learn, make mistakes, make mistakes, make mistakes, make mistakes and learn some more. It is not always the end product that is most important. It is not always the process of doing something that is important. How you choose to deal with situations and learning opportunities are often more important than the outcome. Take time to enjoy your fiasco's. Sometimes they even taste good!


Until next time - Fern

21 comments:

  1. From the photos, these look like table grapes - meant for eating out of hand and not jam. (Channel "When Harry Met Sally" for how to deal with seeds!)

    You could try processing these grapes as you would Concord grapes - slipping the skin off of each grape (yes, every one!) You then add a bit of water (3/4 c. )to the skins and cook down for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the insides down with no water for about the same time. Run the insides through a food mill. (Mine is hand-operated and old school...I never have any problems.) Mix the cooked skins and the grape pulp together with sugar... 6 cups per 2 quarts of grapes. Boil for 10 minutes. Add one box of pectin and follow directions. Can as for jam. Makes about 3 pints. If you have a Ball canning cookbook, this is their recipe.

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    1. I don't know if I just didn't get the mill put together right, or it was too tight or what.

      Thanks for the information. I'm glad it will be a year before I try anything again!

      Fern

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  2. Thank you thank you thank you. Every choice you make is one I get to watch and I am grateful.

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    1. You are very welcome. I hope something along with way will help you out in some way.

      Fern

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  3. Oh my! You know when my kids were little and ate lots of jelly I made grape jam and jelly. Now that they are gone I make a little juice for the grands and the chickens get the remainder. I get eggs : ) I find other things to can that I produce and try to produce enough that I can pick and choose. I choose crops that I get lots of output and enjoy rather than canning things just because I have it. As you get more established at your farm and get more fruit producing you will be able to do that also. Now I make decisions about what to can and what not to based on how much freezer room I have, how many jars I have and what I want to fill that area with that gives me the most nourishing food, keeps the longest and has a high caloric/protein content.

    I have definitely had my grape butter episodes through the years though!

    Hugs from The Holler
    CQ

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    1. Hi CQ,

      In some ways it's just as fun to blog about what went wrong as what went right.

      I look forward to our fruit trees producing. Then I may feed these grapes to the chickens, too! I like eggs better.

      Take care,

      Fern

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  4. I am learning so much by reading your adventures. Your attitude about failures and successes and them all being teaching moments is inspiring. I know you must get tired from working on and off the farm but I love your blog and am so thankful for it. God bless!

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  5. I have an old recipe of my great-grandmother's for canning grape juice. Quart mason jars - Put 1 cup of grapes in the jar, add sugar, about 1/4 cup, fill w/ boiling water. Cap w/ sterilized tops. Process. It is delicious. We love grape juice. I put the cooked grapes in the apple sauce thingy and it works great to get the juice to make jelly w/. Just saying.

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    1. That sounds pretty easy. Thank you for sharing!

      Fern

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  6. LOL - just this morning I told my husband we need to plant grapes. We don't like grape juice, jelly, or the grapes per se, but the grape leaves are highly recommended for using to keep vegetables crisp when fermenting.

    We have ALOT of currants and bush cherries;they have a tiny seed inside, also. Normally, I cook them down and we strain them through a stainless steel sieve. I have several glass half gallon canning jars full in the freezer waiting for them to become jam whenever time allows.

    I like to keep tools to a minimum and use them for several purposes, but as we have aged (in our mid-60's now) and find ourselves a bit slower and with more on our plate these days, we've decided to invest in whatever tools will help speed the process up. We try to purchase items that can be used without electricity, if at all possible, as we have a wonderful woodburning cookstove for a backup plan.

    This year we bought a Mehu Liisa, after reading about it and seeing it in action, on Jackie Clay's blog 'Ask Jackie.' We haven't tried it yet, but will do so in the future. There will be another huge crop of currants, cherries, and plums next year, Lord willing. When I read your post today, I thought it might work on grapes, also.

    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful posts. I look forward to them each day.

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    1. Since this fiasco occurred we have also been looking at a Mehu Liisa or something like it. When I reread what I wrote, it is rather funny. More so now than it was then....

      Thanks, Glenda.

      Fern

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    2. Glenda,
      I recently read about some alternatives to using grape leaves when fermenting - "fresh grape, raspberry, oak, blackberry or cherry leaves (these types of leaves supply tannins, which help keep the pickles crispy and crunchy)" If you have access to any of those, maybe you won't have to plant grapes. I plan on trying some of the blackberry leaves that grow wild on our property. Here's the link to the article I pulled the quote from: http://www.primallyinspired.com/ridiculously-easy-homemade-dill-pickles/

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  7. Oh, the memories you brought back from last year. I gleamed some grapes from an empty lot near by and thought I'd make some jelly or juice or something. I think I had every pan, bowl, and bucket dirty after but I did get more juice then your one pint. My kitchen walls also got a good cleaning! My folly-food mill ended up being the champ in my grape fiasco. I still have juice 'bricks'(I froze it in loaf pans to save space) left over from last year. Makes great jelly if I needed more jelly. HA!

    How about making some grape leather in the dehydrator? That's pretty good and your pint would make a couple of trays I bet.

    Now, Off to go see what a Mehu Liisa looks like. I'm Always learning something here!

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    1. No thanks on making leather. I am finished with those grapes! We haven't even eaten any of the grape butter yet....

      Fern

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  8. Fern ,
    I just found your blog. I ( like many others ) am big into canning and preserving. I would suggest you looking into a " Squeezo" . It is a type of food mill, but the beauty is it takes the seeds and skin or the fruit/veg , dumps it one way then the the pulp /meat goes another direction. Mine came with 3 different screens . One for berries, one for tomato/apple type produce and the last for pumpkin/squash. You can take that Grape mash , place it on a plastic type screen for your dehydrator and make fruit leathers to eat. Best of luck and don't give up. Tina H

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    1. I have something similar to the Squeezo, Tina, it's a Victorio. I just wanted to use the KitchenAid version for ease. I even tried it again later on with another kind of grapes, but the same thing happened. What I would really like is for my seedless grapes to start producing so I could make raisins. We eat many more raisins than fresh grapes or any kind of preserves. Thank you for the encouragement. I will not give up finding ways to preserve our harvest. Welcome to the blog. I hope you find other things here of use to you.

      Fern

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  9. Just saw were you nixed the idea of fruit leathers. What about making grape pies? Where I live they are a huge hit in the fall. Tina H

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    1. I have never heard of a grape pie.......

      Fern

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  10. Naples, New York has a grape fest every fall when the grapes are ready for harvest..... the place "crawls" with grape pies. try googling it

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