In this post I'll show my method for making LOTS of grape juice quickly. See my first post here for an introduction to the whole thing. There will be a 3rd post as well with ideas on how you can use every last scrap of the grapes.
So, I take a huge pile of grapes like so:
Now you need to get the steam juicer all ready. (Oh, and a steam juicer is just the easiest way to do grape juice if you ask me. Look here for instructions on doing it without one. It will just take FOREVER and you won't want to do a huge amount of grapes that way.) Fill the bottom pan with water, and if you'd like- toss in a few coins. Why? Because you can hear them clinking around in there when the water is boiling and when you can't hear them anymore you'll know you've run the pot dry and you better turn off the heat quickly and add some water! The first year I did juice I ran the pan dry at least 3 times and wanted to kick myself every time!
So, you start heating water in the bottom pan, then add the pan that catches the juice:
Notice the cooler below holding some essentials? I've got a lighter for the burners and a large pitcher to catch the juice. The one thing I really hate about steam juicers is the clamp on the end of the tube where the juice comes out. It looks like this:
My steam juicer instructions say that you don't have to process the filled jars in a water bath at all as long as you:
1- Use sterilized jars (Hot jars right out of the dishwasher are fine.)
2-Let the first cup or two of juice come out and then pour it back in over the grapes. This first bit of hot juice sterilizes the tube.
3-Fill the jar with hot juice right from the steam juicer and immediately put on a sterilized lid and band.
4-Let the jar cool and make sure it has sealed correctly.
*This is NOT the "official" way to do it according to the USDA. I think you are perfectly safe to do it providing you carefully follow each of those steps, but just know that's not "official."
I was using the huge 1/2 gallon jars (which are meant for only juice by the way) and I couldn't always fill a whole jar before I needed to start another batch of grapes steaming. Then a partial jar of juice would sit and cool and not be sterile anymore. For me it was easiest to simply fill each jar as I had the juice and then when I had enough jars ready I would process them all at once.
Here is what my colander pan looked like when I was done with a batch. My instruction manual says to avoid stirring the grapes if you want really clear juice. I wanted to get every last bit of good stuff out so I stirred my grapes around a bunch and was left with all these skins and seeds and some pulp.
Now, to process the juice in a water bath or steam canner follow THESE guidelines. That page will also tell you the "official" way to do grape juice. They sure make it harder than it has to be! It discusses pouring the juice through a coffee filter or something similar to make the juice more clear. I'm just not that fussy! Also, it says to add sugar to taste and bring it to a boil, dissolving the sugar and then pour the juice into the jars. Just one more messy step if you ask me. I don't add sugar until I open up a jar and then I only add about 1/4 cup to a 1/2 gallon of juice that has been diluted with 1/2 gallon of water. Why ruin something as good for you as grape juice by adding a bunch of sugar?
So, here are 5- 1/2 gallon jars (that's 10 quarts at once!) in my awesome steam canner. 1/2 gallon jars are hard to use if you don't have a pot big enough for them. Pressure canners work, but most water bath canners aren't tall enough. Most people will probably just use quarts, so no biggie. Anyway, my steam canner just barely fits the jars and it works great.
As I mentioned before, we dilute our juice with the same amount of water as we have juice. So, I end up with a gallon of grape juice once it's diluted! Then add sugar to taste unless you added sugar when canning it. I only add 1/4 c. of sugar for a whole gallon! You could leave it out entirely if you need to avoid it.
So, you can run batch after batch of grapes in a steam juicer the same way. You'll probably need to steam them for at least an hour per batch and dump out the gunk after each batch. Like I said, I spent a day with two steam juicers and got all my juice done. All 70 quarts of it!
I will do one more post soon discussing what to do with all that leftover grape pulp as well as how to can whole grapes and why I don't do it.