Monday, September 21, 2009
Grapes. Lots and Lots of Grapes.
About a month ago, Dwight and I picked a random collection of pears, blackberries and assorted other produce at his mom's house. Remember? While Dwight was busy plucking pear after pear from the fruit-laden branches, I wandered over to the grape arbors and took a peek at the masses of green grapes.
Here's what they looked like a month ago.
About two weeks ago, we got the call that the grapes were ready. Hooray! After a half day at work, Dwight and I headed off to his mom's, me with camera in hand, to pick a whole mess of grapes.
In this case, a "mess of grapes" equaled about 85 pounds. Seriously.
And the thing is, we barely made a dent. Fairy wanted us to get first pick before she let the neighbors at them. Each year, Fairy lets them have their fill of grapes with which they make gallons and gallons of grape juice.
These are Concord grapes and are amazing. Apparently, Concords are disease and pest resistant, so they're easy to grow and keep pesticide free. They do have seeds, but the flesh just bursts with flavor. And the scent. It's heavenly. Heady. Like you just opened thousands of bottles of Welch's grape juice.
We picked and picked and picked some more until we decided we probably had enough. Yeah, I think we did.
Picking was jut the first step, though. We had to process all of them and quickly. At first, Dwight used a juicer, but it was tedious and messy. Plus the color of the juice was all wrong. It was brownish. Blech! He then had an epiphany.
"I think we should just cook them whole then run 'em through the mill, not even mess with the juicer."
Sure enough, that did the trick. Cooking the grapes with the skins on meant keeping the bright purply-pink color you want in grape jelly and grape juice. So we cooked pot after pot of grapes, after de-stemming and washing them. It took all day—and well into the evening.
Dwight got a killer arm & shoulder workout, pressing batch after batch of grapes through our old-fashioned mill. It's a metal, cone-shaped colander on legs with a wooden, cone-shaped pestle. You push the fruit around, squishing it through the small holes, using nothing but leverage with the one hand and brute force with the other. It's a handy gadget. I've used it on sangria fruit that's been sitting in the wine all night. I'll run it through the mill to squeeze out every drop of fruity alcohol, strain and put back into the sangria with fresh, pretty fruit.
While Dwight cranked out juice, I made jelly and canned it in a boiling water bath. I made 24 8-oz jars of jelly and we had gallons of juice left. After tasting the jelly—and making yummy groaning noises—I had my own epiphany. Make grape simple syrup for mixed drinks. Dwight, the on the spot, clever guy that he is, named said drink perfectly. Grapelletini. And let me tell ya, they're AWESOME.
Oh, and before we processed 85 lbs of grapes, we made about 18 16-ounce jars of salsa. I didn't get any in-process pics of that. Three kinds of peppers, lots of onions, oodles of garlic, mountains of tomatoes, a healthy dose of spices and a generous splash of lime juice all came together to make some darn tasty salsa. It's awful purty, too.