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Everywhere I go I find a pal

Everywhere I go  I find a pal Everywhere I go  I find a pal

Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review

Now, that was perfect.

It was a spritzer made with ruby red grape juice from my backyard garden diluted with fizzy water.

The beverage was not too sweet, not too tart. It was an attractive rouge color topped with pink, bubbly foam.

As I smacked my lips, I uttered a sigh of relief.

This was the first major harvest from a row of Swenson-type white and red grapes I planted three or four years ago. I didn’t know what to expect.

The results were good. The grapes were thin skinned, but large, juicy and flavorful. They didn’t pack a punch like my Concord purple grapes, but they offered a more subtle, fruity flavor.

I spent a major part of the weekend processing grapes. Sitting on a back porch step, I plucked each individual grape off its cluster, tossing emptied green twigs into a cardboard box. In time, the local hornets figured out what was going on. A dozen or more buzzed around me. They gathered at the corner of the box of grape plant compostables, slurping up the sweet juice filtered through the cardboard box. The hornets, fueled by grape juice, buzzed around me faster and faster. Thankfully, the hornets were young and hungry, not older, bigger and aggressive.

I washed the grapes off with the backyard hose. A host of insects, including picnic beetles, white spiders and earwigs, floated out of my grape tub onto the lawn.

I lugged a heavy bucket of grapes indoors. I boiled the grapes in a kettle for a lengthy period of time. This thickened the juice and turned up the flavor. The juice darkened in color. I used a potato masher to make a thick slurry of grape juice, skins and seeds. The rose-colored mixture lightly boiled for a period of time. The bubbles of boiled material were pink.

Next I had to make some juice. I ladled the boiled slurry into a colander covered with an old, clean t-shirt. Red juice dripped out into a stainless steel pot. Wearing gloves (purple color, naturally), I squeezed the grape pulp t-shirt like a cork screw, trying to extract out all of the grape essence I could.

I needed to can the juice. I filled 14 quart glass jars with the grape elixir, put on lids and caps and processed the jars in a waterbath canner.

The results were gorgeous. I had rows of jars of canned grape juice lined up on my kitchen counter. I enjoyed just looking at my kitchen handiwork.

This is when I took a chilled coffee cup of grape juice (that wouldn’t have filled a quart jar) and decided to sample it as a spritzer. It was really good, better than you could buy anywhere in a store. I passed the spritzer around to the rest of the family. They loved it.

I filled tote bags with the canned juice and found shelf space for the jars down in my basement.

That’s where the sweet and tart essence of summer of 2020 will be stored.

Contact Peter Weinschenk at pweinschenk@