Archive | October, 2012

Fruit of the Vine

31 Oct

Petite Sirah grapes have a high skin to juice ratio, producing wines with high tannins and acidity, giving them the ability to age well.

Three years ago we watched our neighbors plant 500 Petite Sirah grapevines, and then cut and discard the green grapes for 2 years in order to train the plants. This year was their first harvest and after the picking crew had taken the bulk of the grapes they asked us if we’d like to glean the vineyard for chicken treats.

We arrived with buckets and baskets and started to pick…and taste! Chickens Schmickens! There is some excellent juice in those berries, I thought. I looked for recipes online and found one for Gingery Wine Grape Jelly. My first batch didn’t gel, though it is a fine syrup, so I canned it like that. I have always made jams and preserves the French way, by cooking them down, but had never used pectin or made jelly, for that matter.

For the first batch, which became syrup, I used this list of ingredients.

7-1/2 cups wine grape juice
2/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup chopped fresh ginger
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

I started with approximately 10 pounds of grapes and got almost 8 cups of juice. The first step is to wash and stem the grapes. In small batches, in a fairly deep container, crush fruit with a potato masher. The deep dish is important, as the grapes pop and squirt quite vigorously when they are crushed.

Place grapes in a deep cookpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

 Let cool and then strain juice through a fine sieve to remove skin and seeds.

I used a sturdy water glass to press the juice out. The result is a rather pulpy juice.

Place 6 ½ cups grape juice in a deep stainless steel cookpot, reserving 1 cup. An extra large pot is best because when jelly starts boiling it wants to go up, up and away over the edge of the pot…at least mine did, leaving me a sticky purple stovetop.

Peel and chop fresh ginger. Place ginger, lemon juice and 1 cup of grape juice in blender to pulverize ginger. Strain this mixture through a fine sieve into grape juice. Stir in 1 package Sure Jell and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer while you measure sugar into a separate bowl.

A full rolling boil is a boil that can’t be “stirred down” over high heat.

Stir in sugar, return to a full rolling boil and cook for exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle into hot sterilized jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 5 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Gingery Wine Grape Syrup and Jelly

I had an abundance of grapes, so I tried it again after consulting the Sure Jell site, and the Joy of Cooking and Betty Crocker cookbooks. This time, to be sure it would gel, I reduced the amount of grape juice to 5 cups, lemon juice to ½ cup, used a little less ginger, and then cooked it at a higher heat for 2 minutes. This batch was perfect on pancakes!

Pamela’s Gluten Free Pancake Mix…highly recommend!

Today I was almost out of grape juice, but I had some pomegranates, so I decided to try that combo without ginger or lemon juice so that the pomegranate could shine. For this batch I used the following ingredients and cooked it the same way.

1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups wine grape juice
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
5 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Bottom Line: Wine grapes have a great deal more complexity than the Concord grapes typically used for Grape Jelly; and if you like ginger or pomegranate, both flavors pair spectacularly well with them.


Why Didn’t I Think of That?

9 Oct

Last week my friend at City Girl Farming blogged about making Green Tomato Sauce and I thought to myself “Why didn’t I think of that?” I make salsa verde ALL the time, but I use tomatillos, not tomatoes! Well, from the pictures she posted I figured why not substitute green tomatoes?

I used the gas grill to fire roast the green tomatoes and a bunch of green and red jalapenos. The red ones are hotter than the green ones, mind you. After everything was charred I let them sit for 15 minute to cool, trimmed the stems and cores, washed the peeling off the tomatoes and cut them in chunks.

All this went into the VitaMix with a small chopped onion and 6 cloves of garlic. Once everything was pureed I simmered it for 10 minutes and added some salt and cilantro.

I got two good sized containers of spicy and delicious salsa from this small batch and made green enchiladas with one of them. The second one is in the freezer. Now that I know this works I plan to use all the unripened tomatoes for a big batch later this month, and I think I’ll can it, rather than freeze it. No tomato will ever be wasted again, thanks to City Girl Farming!


8 Oct

The Mexican “sofrito” takes off on the French mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) with onions, tomatoes and chiles. It is the basis of  this recipe my sister-in-law Dina taught me years ago at her home in Veracruz.

With the end of tomato season almost here and the last of my summer squash just harvested, I felt compelled to make this south-of-the-border dish one more time this year. It is a go-to vegetable dish in our house during the summer and also keeps well in the freezer. Though I don’t normally use a recipe, I tried to measure everything this time in order to share it with you.

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion – diced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 4 jalapenos – seeded or not, depending on your heat tolerance
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Knorr Suiza chicken bouillon
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels – roasted, if you can find them
  • 4 cups diced summer squash (calabasita)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste

Sauté onions until soft, add garlic and sauté another minute. Add chopped chiles. As for the chiles, we like lip-sizzling spicy, so I leave the seeds in the jalapenos, but you can remove them to tone it down. If you can’t stand spicy at all you can use bell peppers or mild Anaheim chiles. This “sofrito” should be simmered until chiles begin to change color.

Add tomatoes and the chicken bouillon and sauté until tomatoes release their juices, about 1 minute. Add frozen corn. Cover and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.

If you have very young summer squash you can just dice them, but my end of season squash were pretty big, so I scooped out the seedy interior, leaving just the firm outer flesh and rind.

Add squash to sauté pan and mix thoroughly with other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on level of squash crunchiness you prefer. The last step is to add cilantro, mix thoroughly over high heat and then cover pan and remove from heat. Let rest for about 10 minutes and salt to taste.

This is a great side dish and very versatile. I recently used it as a filling for vegetarian enchiladas and they were a huge hit. I’ve also frozen it and added to soups during the winter. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.