Today was finally time to pick the rest of the grapes.
The vine grows all across the pigsty, which I use as an office… and across the front of the barn. In fact, if I don’t cut it back soon, we might actually lose the house.
So out came the ladders… and up I went to harvest this year’s crop.
It wasn’t long before I’d filled the largest pan in the house. I kept some of the ripest, juiciset ones to go with the cheese I bought for this evening… and took the rest inside to turn into grape juice.
One of the best things I ever bought since coming to Germany has been a steamer. Actually I rarely use it – usually only once or twice a year. But owning one has made me the most popular person in the entire neighbourhood. During the summer months I have a stream of neighbours calling round to borrow it, because they have a glut of plums or apples or elderberries or red currants… inevitably my reward for lending out the steamer is a bottle of the juice they’ve made. In fact, I’d recommend everyone to buy a steamer even if you never make juice yourself. At least you’ll make lots of friends!
It’s an odd sort of contraption. There is a pan at the bottom, which you fill with water. There’s a sieve on the top where the fruit goes… and a section in the middle with a tube sticking out where all the juice collects. A funnel through the middle takes the steam from the water up to the fruit.
As soon as you heat up the water the grapes start to sweat out their juice… it’s like a sauna for grapes.
Once the grapes split open, the juice runs down into the central pan and you can collect into sterilised bottles.
Because it’s been extracted in a steamer, the grape juice is sterile – so if you want to make wine, you need to add your own wine yeast. You can’t rely on the natural yeast in the grape skins. Somehow I fear my kids will drink all the juice before it ever gets as far as a fermenting jar this year though….