While this years April frost made it a disastrous year for many of Ontario’s fruit tree crops, grapes have been just fine with the strange weather. Grapes bud later than many fruit trees and so were able to avoid the killing frost that occurred in April. They also appreciate the lack of rain and desert like conditions that have devastated so many other crops. Wine enthusiasts are watching carefully as this year looks as though it will be a premium year. Many are saying that this year may make some of the best wine Ontario has every produced.
Toronto’s grapes have been no different. We have had many excellent grape picks that have had heavy yields. We’ve been able to beat the racoons to most of the grapes as well! We’ve already harvested almost 1,000 pounds of grapes this year. A grape pick I lead the other week yielded 150 pounds. Even after the volunteers took their share and I made a trip to two community organizations who took all the grapes they could, I was still left with loads of grapes.
I decided it was time to bring my old fruit press out of retirement. I had formerly only used this press for making apple cider. In the past I have found making apple cider to be a huge ordeal because the apples have to be ground up first and then pressed. Only having a small 8 cup blender for the grinding process has always made apple cider making a slow and time consuming process. In comparison grape pressing was a breeze. I simply stacked the grapes up in the press and started applying pressure. No blending required. I also didn’t have to apply much pressure to yield loads of juice. I quickly filled all my mason jars with juice and was left scrambling for bowls and pots as the juice ran out of the press.
The resulting juice was really delicious. It was more tart than your typical store bought fruit juice and was very refreshing. I decided the best way to enjoy this juice was at a grape pick. Many of the grapes that we pick are a slipskin variety that is typically best for juicing or making jelly. I find this means that the grapes we pick aren’t the best eat as you pick fruit. So it was nice to have an example of a finished product for people to try while they picked.
I happened to bring the juice to a pick that was co-ordinated with The Stop Community Food Centre and one of their partner agencies Across Boundaries. It was a large pick with ten enthusiastic gleaners who all loved the juice. I hope to bring more fruit that has been prepared into something delicious to picks. Especially the fruits that aren’t best eaten raw off the vine or tree, things like elderberry, grapes, walnuts and especially ginko.