Sunday, October 18, 2009

Make your own grape juice - It's good for you and tastes GREAT!

This year the kids and I have done a TON of foraging - I say they help me, but basically they run around the open field and play while I harvest! Sometimes I go just by myself - I just need to get away.. The other day I needed one of those days and I popped over to my friend Steve's to harvest the last of our pumpkins, and misc. garden produce. I also wanted to grab the grapes that i had seen earlier in the summer growing in several places along his property line.

As I arrived I realized I may be too late, as one of his new neighbors was hacking away at the fence-line at the uncontrolled and overgrown grapevines, mulberry trees and black raspberries. As grandma would say, I was a day late and a dollar short... However as I approached the fence-line I heard "So you must be the maple tree girl, Steve told us about you. He said you may be coming for the grapes." Luckily most of the most prolific vines were still in tact, so i was able to harvest a bunch.

After I stopped by to ask Steve about any large nearby Oak trees (as I was also on a Hen of The Woods mushroom hunt). He told me to check out the old cemetery adjacent to his property

I arrived and didn't find any elusive mushrooms HOWEVER I thankfully looked up and saw a whole lot of wild grapes. I spent the next hour and a half collecting as many as I could reach - Wish i had a ladder with me! In all I collected 15-20 pounds of grapes.

So what does one do with grapes? Make jelly? I already have so much of that put up for the year... Make wine? I didn't have everything I needed to make that happen... How about GRAPE JUICE!

Now if you think making your own grape juice is difficult, it's not, but like the I Love Lucy episode where she gets very messy from mashing grapes - It IS a messy project!!! The kids thought it was cool that I brought home these tart super dark purple gems - They didn't much like eating them though, as they were too tart!!! So I set about to make my juice

Grape Juice

*NOTE: Generally, a pound of grapes makes approximately 1 cup of juice.

Essentially all you do is wash the grapes and remove them from their stems - This is really a pain to do though given the size of wild grapes! After they were washed, I added them to a large pot and added enough water to cover the grapes. Next mash the grapes and bring the pot of water/grapes to a simmer for approximately 10 minutes.

Next prepare a fine mesh colander with cheese cloth or other fine cloth - Don't laugh but I actually used clean nylons that were no longer good - They really do the trick! Then strain and gently squeeze the juice out of the grape pulp and compost the remaining mash.

You now have pure grape juice...

Our final product could have stained shirts BLACK it was so dark and rich, and in all after we cut it with water some and added a little sweetener we got 3 gallons of a very tasty juice. be aware though that there is some sediment in the bottom, so if you like strain the juice several times, or avoid shaking it before serving! My favorite way to drink it was to add some red wine to it making a perfect fall wine cooler!

I figure with all the natural goodness I got from that dark, rich juice, that I won't EVER die of any cancer because the juice was so full of so many good-for-you antioxidants

For a great step-by-step photo pictorial and directions for making your own grape juice, check out this site I found!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Mushroom Foraging

Last fall my husband and I headed out to a guided fall mushroom hunt with the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Program. We had a good time hunting for puff balls and were the only team that found the elusive Hen of the Woods.

I don't know why I had a craving to find them this fall, but the other day I decided I wanted to find my own Hen of The Woods. I packed up the car, loaded the kids and went to a local Township Park for the "hunt". We didn't hit the jackpot immediately, with Hen of the Woods, however we found TONS of puffball mushrooms all over the park. The kids had a blast walking around looking at dead tree trunks, in the open fields and along the trails - I think they found all of the mushrooms before I did. I COULD however smell the mushrooms as we headed along our way and told them to look out, and it's likely that walking ahead of me netted the most fungi, but I won't complain.

Along with finding mushrooms, I told my children never to pick any, except if Mommy or daddy were right there and said it was OK, and I told them to NEVER EVER eat any. I even said that they could die from eating mushrooms - I would tell ANYONE that. The two types of mushrooms I was hunting though are the easiest to identify and don't have poisonous look-a-likes really, so with my trusty guide-book in hand I felt confident in our harvest. Anything I wasn't certain of I took the "when in doubt throw out" route...

What was truly amazing was the next week while at my son's soccer game, my husband and daughter were roaming around, and my daughter netted a large cache of puff balls that hadn't gotten trampled - they were right in the middle of all the soccer fields!

We had a blast walking through the park looking for wildlife, falling leaves and all there is to see and do (I enjoyed tiring them out too!). I love teaching my children new and exciting things to do, and they enjoy spending the time with dear ole' mom!