Yesterday on her blog The Monastic Mirror, Sister John Paul OSB, from my home town in Pennsylvania, had a great blog about picking Concord Grapes at Sceiford Farms in Northeast, PA. When I was in college in Erie we used to make trips to Northeast at this time of year to buy apples, pears, grapes - whatever was being picked at the time. In fact some of the orchards in that area would hire students to pick fruit when they had the time. They would pay us, feed us, and send us home with a basket of whatever we had picked that day. It was great fun.
So, as I was thinking about Concord Grapes, which are the only grapes I really like, I started thinking about the excellent things you can do with them. When I worked at StockerYale in New Hampshire one of the women who worked there had a bunch of Concord Grape vines and she would bring me a shopping bag full of them in the fall. My approach was to eat a lot of them before I even got them home but then to remove the grapes from the stems, wash them well, and put them in a big kettle and just simmer them until they had all burst and were producing lots of juice. It helps to add a few green apples, washed and cut in chunks - this adds pectin. Then you scoop them out, run them through a Foley food mill to remove the seeds and put them back in the pot. Now you lower the heat and cook slowly being very careful not to let them burn. When they are reduced by half measure the fruit and add an equal amount of sugar. Cook until the sugar is completely melted and the jam is nice and thick then ladle into sterile jars, seal, and save. This makes a delicious, very "winey" tasting grape jam.
Another good treat is Concord Grape Conserve which is made in a similar fashion except after you remove the seeds and return the pulp to the kettle you add an orange, seeds removed, sliced very, very thin (rind and all), a lemon, seeds removed, sliced very thin (rind and all), 2 c. of raisins, and 1 tsp each allspice, cloves and cinnamon (more cinnamon, if you like). Simmer this as above, add the sugar, etc. This is delicious, spicy grape treat that is good as a jam but is also nice as an accompaniment to roasts.
Sister John Paul, above, is a very talented nun and one of her skills is that she runs a backhoe to bring income into the convent. She's really good at it and in St. Marys she is known as Sister Mary Backhoe. Now she can add Sister Mary Picks-the-Grapes to her list of accomplishments.
It's Autumn, revel in it.
Thanks fore reading.