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Since grapes grow so incredibly fast within a single growing season, you can teach them not only about gardening, but also about where food comes from. We all know the importance of getting kids off of the couch, away from the TV and into the garden (for a whole variety of reasons!) and one of the easiest, and tastiest, ways to do that is by planting something edible.
Living so close to Sonoma Valley, I thought it would be fun to have our own little 'crush' with our one grapevine. I originally planted this vine for ornamental reasons only, as it has incredible red fall foliage (the variety is a California native called 'Roger's Red'). My one vine quickly grew 30 feet, draping softly over my arbor and aviary. The grape itself has lots of little seeds, making it somewhat difficult to eat, but since it's such a beautiful vine I didn't care.
Every year the vine produces more and more grapes, and this year is no exception. We usually eat our fair share, leaving the rest on the vine as a snack for the birds.
One Saturday morning, my daughter woke up and decided she really wanted to make grape juice with all of the grapes. Since I try to seize any activity that my 15 year old wants to do with me (they're getting fewer and further between), I grabbed my husband and we dove right in.
It was actually much easier than I thought it would be. I was prepared for a messy job, and the grim possibility of my family abandoning me after about 15 minutes. But they hung in there until the very end and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!
Here's the step-by-step process, resulting in some of the best grape juice I've ever tasted:
Obviously, the first step is to pick your grapes. Using Fiskars Telescoping Power-Lever Bypass Loppers made it super easy to reach those clusters of grapes that were just far enough out of reach.
The next step is de-stemming the grapes. If you decide to skip this step and leave the stems on, the crushed stems can make the juice taste 'woody' and 'tannic'.
After rinsing the grapes, it was time for one of the most critical steps of this process. WASHING FEET! Remember, those feet will be making the juice that you’ll soon be drinking so make sure they’re squeaky clean!
The next step is the most fun of all for kids. With freshly cleaned feet, stomp away until every one of those teeny tiny grapes is crushed! Depending on each kid’s ‘zest for stomping’ this could take 15 to 45 minutes.
You’ll then need to separate the juice from the skins and seeds. It’s best to use a colander with really small holes in it to filter out as much 'junk' as you can. It’s also helpful to use a pastry blender to mash down the skins, allowing even more juice to flow. It’s also a good idea to filter the juice one last time through a few layers of cheesecloth to remove the tiniest of particles.
After a quick boil on the stove to gently pasteurize the juice, you’ll have several pitchers of strong and tasty grape juice! Either dilute the juice with water, or mix with a little seltzer water or 7-Up for a bubbly treat.