Friday, October 7, 2011

· A Gift of Beta Grapes

September 23-28, my younger sister from North Dakota and three of her friends came to adventure in the Black Hills...and, naturally, Mountains To Prairies Bed and Breakfast was their home base. They brought with them four horses, which they boarded at nearby High Country Ranch, as well as a generous load of freshly harvested garden vegetables and apples, also various sizes and colors of fresh farm eggs (even tiny batam hen eggs!)

Our first group meal consisted of Roasted Vegetable Lasagna and a salad, which included fresh crisp cukes! As it turned out, the remaining half of the lasagna was our last group meal, too, consumed late the fourth evening, after my sister was released from the hospital. She and one of her friends had each met with a hard fall off runaway horses, but are thankfully now on the road to recovery. Since they've left, I continue to chop vegetables for stir fry, chili, Italian rice, etc., using the homegrown eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions, potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. Three beautiful hard-shell squashes are cheerfully posed at our front door, but will be disappearing into the kitchen, one by one.

Almost overwhelming me, there were also deposited three huge boxes of Beta Grapes on the table, a gift from my older sister. The Beta Grape (pronounced bet-ah) is a cross between a wild riverbank grape and a concord grape...consequently tart and, well, grapey tasting. Deciding how to move forward with the preservation process was a challenge, as I didn't want to use sugar initially, and wanted to retain as much of the fresh goodness of the treasured grapes as possible until further future processing. Happily, I remembered my 'vintage' centrifugal force juicer! (Since I hadn't used it in recent years, it had been price-tagged and placed in our Anteeks sale room...yikes!!) The idea was to spin out the fresh juice and collect each batch in a large stainless steel kettle and refrigerate until all was spun. This turned out to be more than a long day's effort.

You may have seen one of these at a yard sale...

Help was enlisted (much appreciated) after I had de-stemmed the first bowl full of fruit.

It became quickly apparent that I had forgotten the most basic necessity for operating the juicer...a catch bowl. Handy paper towels to the rescue!

Here we go again...

Three small handfuls of fruit fill the feeding hole, and the plunger is pressed by hand to force the fruit into the hidden spinning basket...whirrrrr...

It's a fairly messy but easily managed task...though I didn't realize how messy until I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror while cleaning up afterwards. :) After processing each bowl full of de-stemmed and washed grapes, I cleaned the machine. — Fresh squozed (southern term) juice shoots out on the left side, and the seeds along with other bulk are flung into a retainer on the right side...

After all the juice was gathered in the large kettle, I weighed out smaller batches into my stainless steel jelly kettle...and brought each batch to a full boil, simmered for five minutes, returned to a full boil. This step was necessary to remove impurities and for quality preservation. Eight-ounce jelly jars were sanitized and waiting for the sparkling purple juice. After the jars were filled, I lightly placed a lid on each jar and allowed the juice to cool. Then I lightly twisted a band over each lid, and placed all in the cooler to chill completely. When the jars were thoroughly chilled, I tightened the bands, labelled and transferred the gifted harvest to the freezer. Alternatively, I could have sealed and processed the jarred juice in a water bath for a stable non-refrigerated shelf life, but my plan was to cook the juice as little as possible to retain the freshest flavor and wholesomeness.

Because there is no sugar added to the juice, we can mix the juice from an eight-ounce jar with three cups of a naturally sweet juice such as bilberry and enjoy it as a very healthful beverage...not too tart. Or, I can use as many jars of Beta Grape juice as desired for a jelly or jam recipe, for a particular effect.

Mountains To Prairies Bed and Breakfast
bed and breakfast hospitality inn
hill city - central black hills national forest - south dakota
convenient lodging location near
mount rushmore - 1880 train - custer state park
- wind cave national park - jewel cave national monument
- crazy horse memorial - black elk wilderness
- mountain lakes - harney peak - norbeck scenic byway
- george s. mickelson trail - the centennial trail
- historic downtown hill city - antiques