The Concord Grape…How Sweet It Is!

Concord Grapes - Round 2We are so lucky to have beautiful Concord grapes dangling from the grape arbor in our yard each year.  These sweet purple jewels are a special treat for the early fall harvest.  Friends of ours with thriving vines also take in bountiful bushels of grapes which they share with us each year.  We cherish these beauties and utilize every drop of juice we can get!  This year, we made our usual stock of Concord grape jelly, enjoyed the juice at breakfast, and we made our favorite sweet treat – Concord grape sorbet.  (More about the sorbet later) 

For those who like a little history…  Ephraim Wales Bull developed the Concord grape in 1849, according to the Concord Grape Association.  He planted around 22,000 seedlings on his farm outside Concord before he found the ideal grape.  This hardy grape ripens early (September, in our yard here in Granby CT), thereby escaping the killing frosts that are just around the corner.  The Concord grape has full-bodied flavor, beautiful blue-purple skin, and the aroma of the ripened grapes is unbelievable.  We enjoy walking beneath the grape arbor before harvest, breathing deeply the scent of sweet grapes that matches no other.  

All of the grape concoctions that we prepare at the Dutch Iris Inn begin with the Concord grape juice itself.  When we first began, we boiled the grapes down, put them through a food mill or cheese cloth to get as much of the juice as possible.  This labor intensive process took quite some time, until we learned of a way to extract the juice from all of the grapes within an hour or two – without the mess.  A friend of ours, a quintessential New England woman (and former military nurse), loaned us her stovetop triple-boiler juice extractor that she has been using for about 40 years.  Before you knew it, we had a couple of gallons of grape juice, and we were on our way to jelly preparation. 

We put up many jars of Concord grape jelly once again, having plenty to share with our guests at the breakfast table throughout the year.  For those of you who enjoy canning, you may understand the attraction of canning Concord grape jelly and juice – this all happens after the hot summer season, so the kitchen does not become a sweatshop the way it does when canning the summer harvest!

As for our Concord grape sorbet, it is a very simple process.  Here’s how we do it:  Mix 4 cups of Concord grape juice with ¾ cups sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently and stir constantly until sugar dissolves – the mixture does not need to boil, it just needs to get warm enough to melt the sugar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool; chill in refrigerator.  Add 1-2 Tablespoons vodka to the sweetened grape mixture (this keeps the sorbet from freezing rock-solid), pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer the Concord grape sorbet to a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze until firm.  Serve and enjoy – and think about us as the sorbet passes over your lips, and your lips turn purple.  You’ll feel like a kid again!

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