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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flight of the Concords (and Other Varieties): How to Preserve Grapes

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Grape varieties at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market. - P200ERIC/FLICKR
  • P200eric/Flickr
  • Grape varieties at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market.

My name is Sean, and I have a grape problem. If I purchase a bunch (or 10) of grapes, I will mindlessly sit and eat them, one by one, preferably chilled, until they are gone and I have an aching stomach. I seriously cannot help myself.

When grapes peak at the market, the abundance and diversity can be overwhelming. This year's short season has resulted in prices that are merely fair, hovering around the $3 per pound mark at last check. Each variety is unique, so taste before you buy. Color is not always an indication of flavor, either. Your classic green Thompson Seedless is refreshing and acidic, but not all that complex; similarly colored Muscats are positively seductive, with winy and floral flavors. I adore Red Flame for its sharp tannins, and then there is of course our friend the Concord.

First and foremost, Concord grapes conjure up memories of the jelly that many of us were practically weaned on, paired with sugary peanut butter and equally sugary white bread. (Or, perhaps for some, Manischewitz.) Don't get me wrong: I think the intensely perfumed Concord is one of the most beguiling of all fruits. And if it's a super grapey grape jam you're after, then skip the store-bought stuff and whip up a batch of your own from little more than Concords and sugar.You'll never look at Smucker's™ in the same way again.

click to enlarge Emily's trio of pickled grapes from Nomnivorous. - NOMNIVOROUS.COM

Many other grapes are ripe for jelly-making, such as Muscadines .

If you want to make your house a little more international, pancake-wise, try Kaela's "graple" syrup, an intriguing mix of grape and maple syrup. Or if you want to go seriously old school, try making a simple saba, or grape must. All you need is a balsam-wood cask and you can make your own balsamic vinegar.

Pickled grapes may sound odd, but they are a revelation. The crunchiness of grapes makes for a spectacular launching pad for both sweet and savory applications. Emily from Nomnivorous takes them in three different directions. Three! That's overachieving.

Of course, my favorite form of preserved grapes is the fermented kind. Perhaps I can get my cave set up in time for next year's harvest.

Sean Timberlake is the founder of Punk Domestics, a content and community site for DIY food enthusiasts.

Follow SFoodie on Twitter: @sfoodie.

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Sean Timberlake


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