And I will grant you that it does look like a “bootlegger’s still” and, in fact, the recipe book came with many recipes for “home brew.” Anyone who knows me very well at all, though, knows that alcohol in any of its ingestible forms is an abomination to my very soul. (There has been too much heartbreak in the world in general and in the lives of some of the children I have loved for me to be neutral about this. Do not argue with me. You will not win.)
But for the sake of the interested, curious and just plain nosey — allow me to take you through a tour of these kettles and what they do for me. (And I do lend them out, should anyone decide to try them!)
This is the view of three sides of the box the kettle came in. Like I said, I have two kettles, and when I am doing juice, I keep them both running as hard as they can go. I purchased my steamers at Byler’s Store in Dover. They are not cheap, but one of my boxes has a price tag on it that says $79.00. I don’t think I saw them that cheap before or since. Usually they run at least $100.00.
The first step is to fill the bottom kettle to the fill line with water and get it started on the stove.
It needs to come to a rolling boil.
While the water is getting hot, I wash the grapes and weigh them I need about six pounds per kettle.
This is the juice reservoir
It sits on top of the boiling water pan. The rubber tube hooks up to the handle while the juice is steaming.
Once the water is boiling rapidly, I put the top steamer container holding the six pounds of grapes on top of the reservoir. For years, I picked every single grape off the stems, but the book says it isn’t necessary, so I have stopped doing that, and don’t see any decline in quality. (And it saves incredible time and energy!)
You saw this picture before, but these are the two kettles, cooking away. My Sweet Mama said that they looked like they were copper on my last post. I guess they do, but they aren’t. They are heavy weight stainless steel. The light in my kitchen just makes them look copper. The six pounds cook about an hour and fifteen minutes. The first 15 are at a hard rolling boil, then I turn the temperature back to medium for another hour.
Each kettle makes about three quarts of juice when there are six quarts of grapes in the steamer. So I am able to fill six empty jars with hot water and put them into my microwave which is over the stove and make them very hot there until I am ready to empty the steamer.
It looks like I am caramelizing my Kerr canning lids, but again, it is just the light. I put six flat lids into a small pan on my stove and bring them to a boil.
About now is when I don a pair of latex gloves. I have learned that a pair of latex gloves saves a woman many a burn on canning day. Plus, it makes it possible to handle hot jars with a great deal of ease.
I have a stool that is exactly the right size for this job. I strip a kitchen size trash bag over it to save on cleaning it up afterwards, and scoot it close to my stove. When the steaming is done, I take a hot jar, set it on the stool, and take down the rubber tubing and unclamp the clamp, letting the boiling juice into the jar up to the neck. Working as fast as I can, I put a hot lid on the jar, screw a band on it. Shake it gently, and loosen the band enough to”burp” the jar and then tighten it down again, and set it on the cupboard in a row. Usually it will seal immediately, but at least within two minutes. Those of you who do home canning know that there are few sounds as sweet as the PING! of a canning lid!
Last night, when I finished my last steamer of grapes, I had 69 quarts of concentrate.
Was I glad to see then end of those grapes.
And now it is time to think about apple pie filling.