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29 Days of Honey – Elul 5781 – Honeyed Grape Juice

I’ve challenged myself to post 29 honey recipes in the next month – BEFORE Rosh Hashana.

Not just your Bubbe’s honey cake. As a beekeeper and avid cook I can take you and your honey places you’ve never been before- culinarily speaking.

So let’s Buzz out to the vineyard.

Harvesting honey is a sticky business. One of the by-products of honey harvesting is sticky buckets. More specifically, food-grade buckets that have been emptied of their sweet contents (into manageable jar-sized portions) but still contain some honey. Every drop of honey is precious and we don’t want to waste any. A bee makes about 1/12 teaspoon in her lifetime. Fortunately for us, the summer honey harvest usually happens when the grapes are ready.

We – meaning ourselves here at Neshikha – really don’t know much about grapes. Our current property has 4 vines planted by the previous owner. They are mostly green grapes with a few blush-colored ones. We just try and manage them, but usually get about 100kg of grapes.

Although we enjoy wine, we have NO desire to add winemaking (and its equipment) to our cavalcade of skills. So what to do with 100kg of grapes? Harvesting grapes is also a sticky business. We give away as many as we can. We offer free grapes with every honey purchase. We’ve also witnessed good friends cross the street (and head in the opposite direction) when they see us approach with grapes.

When life gives you grapes, make grape juice – but…
Having done this as total neophytes for a number of years, this year we bought a juicer. A REAL “prosumer” – level juicer. Not just for grapes, but my oh my, has it made dealing with grapes ever so much easier. The internet is full of helpful ideas for juicing grapes, some less helpful than others. What we will describe to you below is what we do, now, with the juicer.

You don’t need to have rampant grape vines at your disposal, although freshest is probably best. The product you get is amazing, freezable, and in our case, honey-sweetened.

You will need

  • Juicer- a serious juicer, not the citrus type of juicer 
  • Many clean, freezable containers + room for them in your freezer – depending on your volume of grapes
  • Large pot – again, based on your volume of grapes/juice
  • Cheesecloth, net milk bag, or – gasp – a new, nylon, paint strainer bag
  • Soup spoon
  • Stovetop burner
  • 5 kg grapes – color is irrelevant
  • 1-liter water – honey water is great here- that’s what you get when you rinse off your sticky equipment
  • 200-400g of honey, to taste

How to do it

  1. Juice the grapes – follow those juicer manufacturers’ instructions. Someone took the time to write them
  2. Pour that juice into the pot
  3. Set pot on the stove, medium-low heat
  4. As the juice begin to simmer, scum will form on the surface- skim that off with a spoon
    1. I recommend you taste it at this point to get an idea of how sweet or sour your juice is. This will determine the amount of honey you’ll add to make it palatable. Zero is also an answer, but that’s never happened to us
  5. Continue to simmer and skim until the juice is reduced by 25%
    1. Don’t make yourself crazy over this, just allow it to reduce somewhat; grapes contain a lot of water
  6. Once you’re satisfied with your reduction, turn off the heat and allow it to cool a bit. It should still be warm, but not steaming
  7. Strain through the cheesecloth
    1. Dispose of the pulp as you see fit. Again – the internet is rife with things you can do with all of these by-products of juicing. We settle for composting
  8. Taste – How sweet or sour does it seem to you?
  9. While stirring, add the water and honey until your juice attains the desired sweetness
  10. Allow to cool completely

Store frozen unless you plan tobee hives and old grapes at sunset drink it immediately. Allow enough space in the bottle or jar for expansion, otherwise, you’ll have a nasty mess in your freezer.

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