January of 1958 found Dr. John Welles alone and bored. He could usually count on the weather to keep him busy with the typical winter illnesses of colds, sore throats, and flu, but the residents of Addison were driven inside to hibernate much like the doctor himself. After a vigorous round of house cleaning and catching up on his pleasure reading, Dr. Welles was saved from his tedium by a dinner invitation from Reuben and Hannah Wise.
The Wises were humble people who offered the very best they had to Dr. Welles including homemade grape juice to drink with dinner. When the tangy beverage was incorporated into the dinner blessing, Dr. Welles suspected there was more to his neighbors than met the eye. But it is the Wises’ request made during dinner that truly shook the foundations of their friendship with the doctor.
There really isn’t a recipe for making grape juice; it’s more of a quantity issue. For the sake of this post, I used two one-quart containers of concord grapes which yielded exactly 3 ½ cups of juice. After tasting it, I can see why people make it in large batches to drink on the spot and/or can it for the winter.
Whether picking or purchasing grapes, place them in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Discard any grapes that are insect damaged, smashed, moldy, shriveled, or imperfect in any way. Remove the good grapes from the stem and place them in a pot large enough for your desired quantity. Some people prefer to add just enough water to cover the grapes for the cooking process, but I find this weakens the flavor somewhat.
Mash the grapes with a potato masher and bring to a simmer over a low heat. Don’t heat them quickly or boil them. Stir frequently to keep the grapes from sticking to the bottom. Once they reach a decent simmer, time them for ten minutes. Mash the grapes again half way through the cooking process.
Carefully pour or ladle the smashed grapes through a fine wire sieve, with or without cheesecloth, which has been set over another pot or bowl of adequate size. Gently stir through the mash to extract all the juice. Depending on your quantity, you may need to finish this step in the refrigerator overnight. Allow any sediment to settle to the bottom. Straining the juice once more through cheesecloth will ensure that most of the sediment is removed.
Depending on your taste, you can add sugar to the grape juice or drink as is. I added two tablespoons of raw sugar to the above-mentioned quantity, but really, it’s up to you. I recommend adding any sweetener while the juice it still warm. At this point, you can chill it to serve or can it for later.