Preserving the Harvest

Canning Grape Juice and Jelly

s concord jelly 2

Concord Grapes!

Our friends Rich and Terri live just beyond the Cheddar Curtain (aka the Wisconsin border), about a block from Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful property almost completely surrounded by native prairie and the growing conditions are amazing! Their garden is protected from our super hot Midwest summers and the frigid lows of winter by the moderating effect of the lake. It was a bad year for most people around here who were hoping for a harvest of Concord Grapes (including me). But Rich harvested about a bushel of the purple gems this fall and delivered them to my doorstep!

s concord grapes
To save them from the birds, bunnies, and other critters, Rich picked the grapes a tad on the reddish side…otherwise they would have been gone!

Preparing the Grapes

It took 3 days for me to find enough time to wash, stem, cook, squeeze, and can juice and jelly from the grapes. I kept the fruit in the refrigerator until the day I finished processing to keep them away from fruit flies and to prevent fermentation. I know a lot of folks are into fermenting everything these days…more power to ’em! But I didn’t really want to make fermented grape jelly.

Prepping Grapes:

  • Wash grapes
  • Remove from stems and sort out bad ones
  • Cook grapes until soft
  • Press, run through food mill, or mash and put in jelly bag to strain
Grapes - washed, picked clean and ready to cook down and squeeze!
Grapes – washed, picked clean and ready to cook down and squeeze!

If you want clear grape jelly or juice, you will need to mash the fruit up and put in a jelly bag. Hang the bag over a large bowl overnight and allow juice to drip without disturbing it. If you squeeze the bag, the juice will be cloudy.

Do I care if my juice is cloudy? No! Actually I ran my grapes through my stainless steel food mill to extract as much juice as possible from the fruit. Then I poured the juice through a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth to remove most of the pulp.

You can see that this grape jelly isn't clear like the storebought stuff.
You can see that this grape jelly isn’t clear like the store bought stuff.

This juice was canned (6 pints juice) or used to make jelly to give back to Rich and Terri. I saved 1 gallon of the strained juice for Tom to make a batch of wine. It’s waiting in the freezer until he has time.

All of the pulp that was strained from the juice was used to make a batch of grape jelly/jam to put in my canning cupboard. This jelly is much thicker than regular grape jelly, but I hated to waste it. Especially since my spoiled rotten chickens didn’t want to eat the skins and pulp!

Canning Grape Juice and Jelly

After squeezing the juice, I brought it to a boil and added a small amount of organic sugar. The sugar is optional, but quite a few of the grapes were under ripe, and the juice was quite tart, so I added about 1/2 cup to 6 pints of juice.

The boiling juice was ladled into sterilized pint jars, rims wiped clean, a hot lid applied and metal band screwed on. I processed the juice for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, according to directions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s directions here.

Making Jelly

I made two large batches of jelly. I didn’t find exact directions for making grape jelly on the pectin container, or on the National Center for Home Preservation’s jelly making directions here. They do give instructions for making jelly with and without added pectin. So if you want to try your hand and cooking down grape juice to make jelly without any extra pectin, have at it! I attempted to do this in the past and got tired of waiting for the juice to thicken enough.

My Jelly Recipe

  • 12 cups grape juice
  • 4 Tbsp low sugar pectin
  • 4 cups organic sugar

Pour juice into stainless steel pot, large enough to stir juice and bring to a boil. Turn heat on medium high. Measure 1 cup of sugar into a bowl and add pectin. Stir together and add to juice. Stir juice mixture until it comes to a full boil. Add the rest of the sugar and stir. Bring juice to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Turn off heat. Ladle jelly into sterile pint or half pint jars. Wipe rims, top with metal lid (keep them in hot water until ready to use), screw on metal band and process for 12 minutes in a hot water bath canner. Start timing when water returns to a full boil. Remove and cool on a towel, away from drafts. When cool, test jars to make sure they sealed. Jars that don’t seal should be used or refrigerated.

This recipe makes approximately 12 half pint jars of jelly.

Do you make your own grape jelly? What is your favorite variety of grape for processing?

54 Comments on “Canning Grape Juice and Jelly

  1. Where do you find a pot tall enough to can half gallon jars?mine is only 10″ or so high and I can’t get an inch of water over the top of my big jars.

    1. Hi Becky,
      Unfortunately, everything I have read says that it isn’t safe to can in half gallon jars at home so I have never gone looking for a pot big enough for them. Sorry I can’t be more help… Lisa

  2. Hello,
    I canned some grape juice using my steamer juicer. All of the jars were cloudy. I opened them and boiled the grape juice for about 20 minutes, and then re-canned them (as per my canning book’s instructions). Again they were all cloudy. Are they safe to drink?

    1. Hi Julie,
      The cloudiness won’t hurt anything as long as the juice has been properly canned. If you wish to remove the sediment that causes your juice to be cloudy, you may either strain it through a very fine cloth and do not squeeze the juice (just allow the juice to drain through the cloth to remove the sediment) or you may allow the sediment to settle to the bottom and slowly pour the clear juice off the top. I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Yes, you can make jelly with it I suggest using one of the no-sugar needed pectins because it will be difficult to know if you have the right amount of sugar for most pectins. I hope this helps!

  3. First time on your site. Love all the ideas. I’m getting ready to make grape jelly.y friend picked them a little early so not very sweet. I stemmed and boiled removed seeds and skins using a tomato’s juicer. I am ok with the cloudy look. I pressed for time. Can I freeze this juice and make the jelly later

  4. We smashed and strained our grapes late sat night. We had to leave the jug of juice out because we realized our fridge died right after starting. We weren’t able to finish canning due to family emergency.Is it still safe to use and finish making jelly today?(our house has good air don’t know if that makes difference)

    1. Amanda, I’m sorry I didn’t see this message earlier. I think that if your juice is brought to boiling for at least 10 minutes it should be okay.

  5. Help, did I do something wrong? Made a batch of grape jelly yesterday. Followed all instructions to the T. Jelly came out with top half of jar cloudy and bottom half clear. Tasted jelly after processing and cooling and it tastes delicious. I have another batch of grapes to make more, but want to correct my mistake.

    1. Hi Carol,
      If you don’t want your jelly to be cloudy, I would suggest that you put the mashed grapes in a jelly bag and allow them to drain without squeezing the bag to remove the most juice. I don’t mind having cloudy jelly and I like to get as much jelly as possible so I do squeeze the bag to remove the most juice.
      I hope this helps!

  6. Thanks for all the great information. Struggling beginner. I made my juice, had to wait for jars. The juice has been in fridge a couple days. Now I want to process into jelly. Since I will bringing to boil again. Should I have any problems. They’ve been in the fridge about 3 days
    . Allpreciate any information I can get. Thanks.

    1. Hi Denise,
      Since grape juice is acidic and you’ve had it in the refrigerator, it should be fine to make jelly. I would do it as soon as possible!

  7. I canned grape juice from our white grapes again this year. This time the juice came out or canner red. Only difference I know of is I used my new pressure canner instead of water bath. I didn’t “pretreat” to prevent discoloration. But juice was green when put in canner. Hmmm… something wrong?

    1. Hi Penny… the fruit or juice may change color during processing due to several factors. If the grapes contained more iron or other minerals this year, that could cause a color change. Using a different metal pan or tools while juicing the grapes can cause color change. Also, oxidation can cause darkening of the juice. If the temperatures reached during canning are too high, it can cause carmelizing of the sugars in your grapes.

      Since grapes and grape juice are a high acid food, it is safe to can them using a water bath canner. In the future, maybe it would be best to return to using this method instead of the pressure canner.

      Best wishes, Penny! Thank you for stopping by!

  8. We decided to plant grapes next year. My Grandmother used to grow amazing Concord grapes in S California. She made grape juice, jam, and grape pies! OMG, the pies were amazing!!! Thanks for all the tips!

  9. Lisa Lynn,

    HELP!!!!! My first time at canning merlot grape jelly. I followed your recipe and it didn’t set up. What do I do now?

    1. Hi Nadine,
      I haven’t used juice from Merlot grapes, but it should be pretty much the same as other grapes. I would put the juice back in the pot (stainless steel) and bring it back to a boil, add pectin mixed with sugar (try using the same amount of pectin, but reduce the sugar), bring back to a boil for a minute, while stirring constantly.

      To test if the jelly will set up, take a metal spoon (or maybe several of them!) and place in the freezer. When you think the jelly is done, put a small amount in the cold spoon, tilt the spoon to see if the jelly sticks to the spoon or does it just pour off. If it sticks to the spoon, it will set when it cools. If it pours off, you need to cook longer, or add more pectin and boil again.

      If you make a batch larger than the pectin instructions, it doesn’t always jel properly. If there are instructions on the pectin, follow those.

      I hope this helps!

  10. Will your grape juice ferment after being canned? I am going to try it but haven’t seen any site that directly answers this question. I don’t like it frozen and have more room in my canning room.

    1. Hi Jenifer,
      If you open a jar of canned grape juiceand add yeast it should ferment just fine. Hope this helps!

  11. I had to add an additional package of pectin and added an additional two cups of sugar. I used 12 cups of concord grape juice to start out with. Really tasty jelly but still a bit floppy if you prefer a stiffer jam. To be fair, my low sugar pectin was approaching expiration date.

    1. Hi April,
      After you juice your grapes, let the juice sit in the fridge overnight and strain out the light colored stuff. That is tartaric acid and it causes a bitter taste. Then measure your juice into the amount need for your jelly recipe and freeze. When you are ready to make jelly, thaw the juice and then proceed with your recipe. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  12. Hey Lisa. I made grape jelly last night using ur recipe and it did not set. Any ideas? Is it a total loss or can I recan it adding something to make it jell?

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Michelle. 🙁 I have read that pectin should be used within a couple of years of purchasing it…was your pectin purchased recently? If it was old, buy fresh pectin and start over with the jelly that didn’t set. If that wasn’t the issue, you could take all of the ‘jelly’ and pour it into your pan, use the same amount of pectin and follow instructions again. This time, cook until the jelly ‘sheets’ on a cold spoon. This means that it will stick to the spoon and set up in a thin layer, which means that it will jell.

      If you prefer, you can also use the unset jelly as a grape syrup on vanilla ice cream, over French toast and pancakes, or pour it over a white or yellow cake with holes poke into it (like a Jello poke cake, but with grape jell).

      Grapes contain pectin naturally, so they usually don’t need as much pectin as some other fruits. So I’m wondering if you used a variety that doesn’t have as much natural pectin. That is just a guess.

      I hope you are able to salvage you hard work!

  13. Great post Lisa and a lot of great grape products at the end of all your efforts – that’s satisfying!! Years ago I made grape juice using a Shoft Born (spelling?) which is a German steamer in three parts. Grapes (on the stems) in the top part which looks like a colander, next section is the juice collector and bottom is the water which steams the grapes. The juice runs hot in a concentrated form into the middle portion where you draw it off with the thin plastic hose provided. It was so concentrated I never added sugar – poured it directly into quart jars and then processed it for 20 min. When opened I would dilute it with water and add whatever sugar was needed. I used this juice to make grape jelly too. Think the machine is still stored in the fruit cellar. Having a concord vineyard we have lots of grapes so I made a lot of juice when my kids were growing up. If I want to do any now I use Deb’s method of 2 cups of grape berries in a quart, add boiling water (no sugar) and then process. It is a very easy method.

    1. My friend Audrey also recommended the same method…she has offered to let me use her steamer thingy. I will have to look it up and see if I want to purchase one. It would be very handy to have. Thanks for the suggestion, Linda!

    2. I used my sister’s steamer/juicer like this yesterday. I swear that it’s the ONLY way to do it! So easy and no messes. It just puts out clean, clear Concord juice. And no stemming of the grapes. Just wash off and plop into the basket until it’s full. My resulting juice doesn’t seem to need to be diluted, but maybe a bit of sugar would sweeten it up a bit.

      1. Thanks for sharing your experience with the steamer, Old Mill Creek! You know, I hate to admit this to the world, but my hubby wanted to order one of these and I didn’t want to cook the juice. It seems that I might have to tell him that, once again, he was right! (and I was wrong) 🙂

      2. Having spent most of the summer “prepping” fruit and veggies for canning, freezing, drying, etc., I was really glad to do something so simple! Or…maybe I’m just getting smart in my “old age.” 🙂

      3. Lol 😉 Guess I’m still working on that whole ‘getting wiser with age’ thing…my age is progressing, but I’m not always sure about the wisdom!

  14. I do grape jelly the easy way. I cna grape juice by putting 2 cups sorted washed grapes in qt. jars, add a scant 1/8 cup suagr and fill with water. Hot water bath 20 mins. and done. For jelly I drain the juice and then use low/no sugar pectin and add amybe 1 cup per batch. The leftover msuh is given to the chickens and they love it.

    1. Hi Deb,
      I tried canning grape juice that way and wasn’t crazy about it…but then I wasn’t using Concord grapes…so that might have been the problem. I will have to try it again because it is so much easier!

      I don’t know what is wrong with my chickens…they just looked at the grape pulp and skins like I was trying to feed them garbage! 😉 Silly chickens.

      1. Maybe the problem was that they weren’t Concords – they are so intense in flavor they can stand up to the dilution with boiling water. I’ve never done any other kind, but mine always worked well and its such an easy method.

      2. I think you’re right about that, Linda. I was using the seedless red grapes from the grocery store. I’m sure they are inferior for canning.

      3. It is funny your chickens didn’t like the pulp. Mine wouldn’t eat my applesauce leavings either. Maybe they don’t like the texture of cooked fruit? SO ODD

      4. Mine don’t eat the cooked grape remains, either. I think sometimes chickens need to get used to unfamiliar foods before they’ll dig in. Maybe if they had these foods frequently they would eat them, but if the chickens have only a short season of exposure to them, they don’t really have time to catch on. At least that’s how I make sense of it.

      5. That would make sense, Janet. 🙂 I’m not sure about the cooked texture, Rebecca…mine will eat the applesauce leftovers and other cooked foods. But the fact that they are new foods could be what’s keeping them from eating.

  15. Nice post and pics! I used to strive for clear jelly because I used to enter it in our local ag fair, where it was appraised by appearance (with clarity being very important) but not flavor. I stopped bothering with that because I felt I was wasting perfectly good pulp, and probably losing good nutrition. So I no longer enter my jellies, and now I simply strain through a fine mesh metal strainer to remove seeds and skins, but to retain pulp. I make the jelly the old fashion way with no added pectin, but I do throw in some tart, not quite ripe apples which are high in pectin, when I boil the grapes. The apples don’t affect the flavor because the grape flavor is so much stronger. I strain the same way for juice to drink, making a nice pulpy juice, which we just refrigerate rather than can. We never use more than 2 gallons of juice for drinking, and this family finishes that in less than a week.

    1. Hi Janet,
      I’ve thought about canning goodies to enter in the fair, but it seems like there’s never enough time to do it all! I suppose if you wanted to, you could make a batch of clear jelly and then use the pulp for your home use. That’s great that you have been so involved in the fair!

      We don’t go through a lot of juice in our family, but I wanted to give some back to my friends for sharing the grapes with us. 🙂 Hope they don’t mind it cloudy!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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