Grape juice syrup is a delicious way to add grape flavor to drinks, desserts, yogurt, ice cream and more. It’s made by reducing grape juice down to a thick, sweet concentrate. The finished syrup has an intense grape taste and vivid purple color.
Making grape juice syrup at home is easy and fun. All you need is concord grape juice, which can be found in the juice aisle of most grocery stores. Concord grapes have the strongest, most grape-y flavor that makes the best tasting syrup. With just a bit of simmering, you can turn plain grape juice into a useful pantry staple.
Grape juice syrup is useful for both sweet and savory applications. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles or ice cream for dessert. Mix it into cocktails, lemonade, iced tea or seltzer for something special to drink. Brush it on meat or chicken before grilling for a tasty glaze. The possibilities are endless!
Read on to learn how to make grape juice syrup from start to finish with useful tips for best results.
What is Grape Juice Concentrate?
Grape juice concentrate, also sometimes called grape syrup, is grape juice that has been reduced by heating it down until much of the water content has evaporated. This leaves behind a thick, viscous syrup that is intensely grape flavored and very sweet.
Commercial grape juice concentrate is available to purchase in grocery stores, but it often contains added sugar or preservatives. Making your own grape syrup at home lets you control the ingredients. It only contains one ingredient – pure concord grape juice!
When grape juice is heated, the natural sugars become concentrated as the water evaporates. The end result is a syrup that tastes much sweeter and stronger than regular grape juice. Just a small amount adds bold grape flavor wherever it’s used.
Benefits of Homemade Grape Syrup
There are several advantages to making your own grape syrup instead of buying commercial versions:
- No added sugar or preservatives
- Customizable sweetness level
- More affordable than store-bought
- Fun project for the whole family
- Makes great gifts too!
Since it’s made from pure juice, homemade grape syrup contains no added sugars or artificial preservatives like some types you’ll find at the store. You control how sweet or tart it is by how long you reduce the juice.
Plus, preparing your own grape syrup costs just a fraction of what pre-made versions do. Making it yourself lets you create a big batch to enjoy for weeks!
Choosing the Best Grapes
The type of grape juice you use is crucial for making great tasting grape syrup. For best flavor, always look for unsweetened 100% concord grape juice.
Concord grapes have the deepest, darkest color and strongest grape flavor. They make syrup with a more pronounced taste than other varieties like Niagara or red globe. The concord grape’s signature bold flavor really shines through in the concentrated syrup.
Steer clear of grape juice cocktails, which contain added sugar and flavors. Stick to plain, unsweetened juice – the only ingredient should be grapes! The juice itself provides all the sweetness needed.
Organic grape juice is ideal if you can find it. Organic grapes are grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This means your homemade syrup won’t contain any residual chemical residues.
For a smooth, pourable syrup, use concord grape juice that doesn’t contain pulp or seeds. The juicier the grapes used, the better the flavor!
How Much Grape Juice Do You Need?
The grape juice reduces down significantly during simmering – for example, 3 cups of juice makes about 1 cup of syrup. For a small batch, start with:
– 2 to 3 cups of concord grape juice to make around 1 cup of syrup
To make a larger batch:
– 16 cups (1 gallon) of juice makes 4 to 5 cups of syrup
– 24 cups of juice makes 6 to 7 cups of syrup
– 32 cups of juice makes 8 to 9 cups of syrup
A good rule of thumb is that your finished syrup will be about a third of the amount of juice you start with. Have at least a few cups of extra juice on hand in case you want to further reduce it for thicker syrup.
The yield can vary slightly depending on how long you simmer the juice and your desired syrup consistency.
Grape Syrup Equipment
Making grape syrup only requires a few simple pieces of kitchen equipment:
- Heavy-bottomed pot – A wide, heavy pan such as a dutch oven helps the juice reduce evenly. The syrup is less likely to burn in a thick, heavy pan.
- Wooden spoon – Use a heat-resistant wooden spoon to stir the reducing juice frequently.
- Measuring cups – Accurately measure out the grape juice.
- Funnel and jars – Transfer the finished syrup into jars for storage. A funnel prevents spills.
- Candy thermometer (optional) – Use to monitor the temperature and ensure the syrup doesn’t overheat.
Avoid using pots and spoons that could react with the grape juice’s acidity, like copper or cast iron. Stainless steel or enameled pots are best.
Step 1 – Pour Grape Juice into Pot
Start by pouring your measured concord grape juice into a heavy-bottomed pot. The pot should be large enough to accommodate the bubbling juice as it reduces – a wide dutch oven with at least 4 quarts capacity is ideal.
For beginners, start with a smaller batch using around 2 to 3 cups of juice. You can always increase the quantity once you get the process down.
Step 2 – Heat the Juice
Place the pot of grape juice over medium-high heat. Allow it to heat gradually, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
At first, it will slowly come up to a simmer. Bubbles will start to form around the outer edges. Once simmering, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle but steady simmer. The goal is sustained bubbling without boiling over.
Step 3 – Reduce the Juice
Now comes the fun part – reducing the grape juice down into syrup! This process concentrates the natural sugars and intensifies the grape flavor.
Frequently stir the simmering juice to prevent burning on the pot bottom. Scrape the spoon along the bottom and into corners to incorporate any juice that isn’t moving.
You’ll need to vigilantly stir pretty much the entire time to keep the reducing juice from sticking. Be patient – it can take up to an hour or longer for the juice to fully transform into syrup.
How To Tell When It’s Done
As the water content evaporates, the juice becomes darker, thicker, and more syrupy. You’ll notice steady bubbling across the entire surface.
There are a few ways to test the syrup for doneness:
- Temperature – Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Around 218°F to 220°F indicates syrup stage.
- Consistency – Dip a spoon in and watch how quickly the syrup drips off. When it coats the back of a spoon and drips slowly, it’s ready.
- Color – Finished grape syrup will be very dark purple approaching black.
- Volume – Remember it will reduce down to about a third of the starting amount of juice.
When the syrup reaches the desired consistency, immediately remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes before carefully transferring to jars or containers.
Don’t let the grape juice boil rapidly or overheat, which can ruin the flavor. If it starts spattering dramatically or climbing close to 225°F, lower the heat.
Small bubbles across the entire surface are good. Large, rapid bubbles indicate it’s too hot.
For smoothest flavor, take your time and simmer slowly. Gently heating the juice gives you more control over the process.
Step 4 – Transfer Syrup to Jars
Once cooled slightly, carefully pour the finished grape syrup into clean jars or containers. A wide-mouth funnel is useful for preventing spills.
Mason jars are ideal for grape syrup. Make sure your jars are thoroughly washed and sterile for longest shelf life.
Leave at least 1/2 inch headspace at the top, then secure the lids. This allows room for expansion as the syrup cools completely.
Let the filled jars finish cooling completely before storing. Avoid storing syrup while it’s still piping hot.
How Long Does Homemade Grape Syrup Last?
The shelf life of homemade grape syrup depends largely on how it’s stored:
- Pantry – About 3 months at room temperature.
- Fridge – Around 6 months in the refrigerator.
- Freezer – Up to 1 year in a freezer bag or airtight container.
For maximum freshness and grape flavor, use your homemade syrup within 3 months.
Proper storage helps maintain the quality and extend the shelf life. Keep containers sealed when not in use.
If mold appears, the syrup smells “off” or shows signs of fermentation, it’s best to discard the batch. Trust your senses!
How To Use Grape Syrup
Homemade grape syrup shines in both sweet and savory uses. Try using it in:
– Flavored water or ice water
– Lemonade, juices, teas
– Cocktails and mocktails
– Italian soda
– Ice cream sundaes
– Yogurt parfaits
– Pancakes and waffles
– Fruit salads
Glazes and Sauces
– Pork or poultry glaze
– Wine or vinegar reductions
– Salad dressings
– Cheesecake swirl
– Chia pudding
– Overnight oats
– Ricotta toast topper
– Granola or energy bars
– Frozen yogurt pops
A little grape syrup goes a long way. Start with a teaspoon or two, then increase to taste. You can always add more!
Grape Syrup Substitute
Don’t have homemade grape syrup on hand? No problem! You can mimic the flavor with a few easy substitutions:
– Grape jelly or jam – Use about half as much to account for extra sweetness
– Plum sauce – Brings nice depth and subtle fruitiness
– Balsamic reduction – Adds rich sweet-tartness
– Mulled wine – Provides warmth and complexity
– Frozen grape juice concentrate – Thaw and use in equal amounts
– Red wine vinegar + touch of sugar – Good for savory glazes
Each replacement will be slightly different, but they work well in a pinch. Mix and match subs to adjust sweetness and acidity.
Storing Grape Syrup
Like any homemade syrup, proper storage is key to maximizing the shelf life of grape syrup. Here are some tips:
– Store in airtight containers – Mason jars or squeeze bottles work well.
– Refrigerate after opening – Keep in fridge for up to 6 months once opened.
– Label containers – Write the date and flavor on the jar.
– Check seals – Ensure lids are sealed properly before storing.
– Avoid moisture – Wipe rims clean before sealing to prevent stickiness.
– Freeze for longer term – Freezes well for up to 1 year.
Troubleshooting Grape Syrup
Making grape syrup is simple, but sometimes minor issues can crop up. Here are some common problems and solutions:
Syrup tastes burnt
The juice overheated or reduced too quickly. For smoother flavor, simmer gently next time.
Syrup is too thin
Didn’t simmer quite long enough to reach syrup stage. Cook it a bit longer to thicken.
Syrup is too thick
Reduced the juice too far – add water or juice to thin it to desired consistency.
Sugar is crystallizing
Don’t worry, grape syrup won’t crystallize. Granulation likely means tartaric acid crystals, which is natural in grape juice. Strain if desired.
Mold grew on syrup
Always use sterilized jars and refrigerate after opening to maximize freshness.
Syrup tastes bland
The grape juice variety may be too mild. Use intense concord grape juice next time.
Grape Syrup Recipes
Now that you know how to make grape syrup, it’s time to enjoy it! Here are some tasty ways to use your homemade syrup:
Grape Syrup Sweet Tea
Stir a few tablespoons of grape syrup into a pitcher of iced tea for a refreshing sweet-tart flavor. Garnish with grape slices or fresh mint.
Grapefruit Palmiers with Grape Syrup
Brush puff pastry with grape syrup before sprinkling with brown sugar and rolling up. Bake into palmiers and serve with grapefruit slices for dipping.
Grape Syrup Vinaigrette
Whisk together grape syrup, red wine vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and minced shallot. Toss with mixed greens or roasted vegetables.
Prosciutto Wrapped Peaches with Grape Syrup
Brush prosciutto-wrapped peach halves with grape syrup. Broil until the prosciutto is crisp. Serve warm over vanilla ice cream.
Grape Syrup Glazed Chicken
Whisk grape syrup with balsamic vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Brush over chicken breasts before baking until caramelized and juicy.
Grape Syrup Mojitos
Muddle mint with grape syrup in the bottom of glasses. Fill with ice, lime juice, rum, and soda water. Garnish with lime wedges.
Grape Syrup Overnight Oats
Stir grape syrup into overnight oats along with milk, chia seeds, yogurt and vanilla. Top with fresh peaches in the morning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get answers to some common questions about making and using grape syrup:
Can you use white grape juice?
Yes, but the flavor won’t be as robust. For the deepest grape taste, concord grape juice is best.
Is grape syrup the same as grape molasses?
No, true grape molasses is made from freshly pressed juice that’s simmered into syrup immediately. Different process but similar end result.
How do you thin out grape syrup?
Add small amounts of water or additional grape juice to thin syrup to desired consistency. Start with 1-2 tablespoons at a time.
Why does my grape syrup have crystals?
Tiny tartaric acid crystals can form naturally in grape syrup. It’s harmless – you can strain them out if desired.
Can you substitute grape jelly?
In a pinch, yes. Use about half as much and supplement with balsamic for more complexity.
Is concord grape juice healthy?
Yes! Concord grapes are full of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C. Their deep purple juice has compounds that are beneficial to health.
Homemade grape syrup is deliciously easy to whip up with concord grape juice. Reduce down pure juice to make a thick, ultra-grapey syrup that outshines store-bought versions. Use your syrup to add big grape flavor to drinks, desserts, dressings, glazes, and more. With proper storage, homemade grape syrup can be enjoyed for months to come. Experiment with infusing different flavor combinations into your syrup too. Get creative with this versatile condiment!