We harvested the grapes from the back yard this afternoon. Well most of them anyway. There are lots of the purple Concord grapes still on the vines. This should be enough to get started on for now. In the past we have just boiled the juice to make grape juice for drinking. Once I made grape jelly, but it was my first time at that and the jelly didn't turn out thick enough to jell properly. We used it as syrup on pancakes and to drizzle over toast. That was way back in 2004. Since then I've done more reading on the canning subject and think I'm up for trying this again.
Last year we lost nearly all the green grapes to the birds. Today while picking the grapes I saw we may have been putting all the blame on the birds when we should have been looking further. While picking the grapes I saw lots of bees eating the green grapes. It was quite interesting. They land on a grape, bite into it and keep going, burying their heads and upper bodies halfway into a grape to get the juice. Then they fly off and come back to get another big mouthful. It never occurred to me to think the bees may have been the ones to consume our grape crop last year. Of course it could have been both the bees and the birds.
When I tried canning jelly for the first time in 2004 we borrowed the canning supplies and just purchased jars that year. This year I invested in my own canning equipment and some new jars and lids. I got this Granite-ware canner with the interior jar rack, the jar lifter/grabber tool, a canning funnel, etc. I am hoping to make good use of these over the upcoming years. At this point it will be used mostly canning grapes for jelly and juice. We didn't plant much in the way of a garden this year so I don't have much more than that to can for now. I hope to plant more next year. I've been reading up about Square Foot Gardening and checking out a few other garden resources. We plan on redoing our patio to create an area of the yard to make a Square-foot garden next year. At this point I haven't made it to very many farmer's markets, but may pick up some more produce over the next few weeks for more canning if all goes well. I was hoping to put up some cucumbers as pickles. We'll see how it goes.
For now I've got these five large containers filled with grapes. We picked all the green grapes we could see, and about half of the Concord grapes. In the process of harvesting the Concords we managed to discover where a hive a bees had made a home under the railroad ties that border that area of the patio near the grapes. The bees were getting pretty stirred up with us messing around getting grapes. At that point when we saw them starting to be agitated we decided it was time to take a break to go indoors and cool off with a cold drink. Besides, we had collected about all the grapes we could deal with for the moment anyway. We'll let the rest stay on the vines a few more days to sweeten more. If the bees or the birds take the rest before we get back out there, we're willing to share.
I have no idea yet how many jars this much grapes will fill. It will be interesting to see if I've got the right amount of pectin and jars for this project. Since I'm so new to this I'm bound to learn a lot for next time. If we've got any expert canners reading this blog, leave me a comment about the most important thing to watch out for - me being a newbie and all, I'm sure it will come in handy. What's your best canning advice?
Tomorrow I've got sewing plans with my friend. That will take care of most of the afternoon. Then I'll be busy picking grapes off the vine to prep for jelly-making. What fun!