You know how it is when a flavor or smell sends you time-traveling back to someone, some place or something in your earlier life?
Well, Concord grapes from the Chef Shack back yard served as a component on their tasting menu I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago transported me back into my childhood. The taste of these grapes carried me to my grandmother's patio where big juicy clumps grew wild on the arbor. Her old brick farmhouse was nearly covered in ivy on the front and sides making it look like it wore a leafy sweater of sorts, and in the back, grapevines covered the walls and open porch. Besides looking somewhat furry, the house grew noisy in the evening as a cacophony of birds twittered and tweeted from their nests nestled into the mass of vines and foliage. In the fall, my cousin Matthew and I would pluck down a few grapes at a time to savor the slightly bitter skin and that almost candy-like grape soda explosion of flavor that surrounds the seeds. I think my aunt and grandmother must have made jelly, but for some reason, it's the fresh grapes I remember.
After a reunion with the Concord grape flavor profile, I told William to remind me to plant grapes next year. There's a good grapevine on Lake View Organic Farm, but it's in an overlooked and easily forgotten spot, so when I thought to check for grapes this year, we realized how weedy and out of the way it is. Next year I'll take some cuttings and get a few vines going in a more accessible location. For the love of fruit that grows around here, how come I never ventured into growing grapes?
The reverb of my nostalgic travels must have hit the airwaves as the sweet Chef Shackers offered up some grapes for the taking. I jumped at the opportunity to explore a new medium and waft in the gorgeous smell of GRAPE while taking on the task of processing the little sweeties. Will it be juice, vinegar, wine, shrub, sauce, salad dressing, gastrique, jelly or all of it?
After I washed the grapes, I couldn't resist a little squish with my hands. I don't much like the idea of stomping my way barefoot through the grapes to release the juices, but a quick squish before I hauled out the potato smasher offered a bit of tactile fun! Since this was my first experience with juicing grapes, I employed many a gadget. The Breville Juicer helped make a mash that I then ran through the Foley Food Mill. I used a large screen to make the project less time consuming, so the chinois did the job of catching any escaped seeds or bits of skin. I have a new appreciation for European wine makers of days past!
Not an easy job - I am sure folks with more experience have found some time-saving tips and tricks? Feel free to share as I'd love to learn more about processing grapes.
Day one I juiced the grapes, cleaned up the mess, got some of the leftover mash fermenting into vinegar and made a small batch of Grape Gastrique - a light sauce of grape juice, sugar, and vinegar that I think will be a great glaze or dressing for any roasted meat. I tasted it on bread and found it worked well there too, but it's much saucier than jammy. I bet it might be good on ice cream, too! This grape day pooped me out, so the rest of the juice went into the freezer for future fun.
Speaking of FUTURE FUN! This weekend, Saturday and Sunday October 29-30 I'm serving lunch (12-2) at the Farmhouse World Kitchen at 401 Main Street in Plum City. I had a great time last weekend serving a soup buffet and taste testing some Birria Tacos. This weekend the dine-in menu will include:
Soup Buffet - Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Curried Garbanzo and Vegetable Soup served with toppings, fry bread & butter
Beef Birria Tacos served with cilantro lime pickled onions and spicy dipping broth
Haystacks and Caramel Apple Mason Jar Cheesecakes
Wine, beer, soda
WHAT'S IN THE STORE?
There are a few new products that I am excited about! Besides a mountain of soups, there are also homemade sourdough croutons - one of my favorite soup toppers! You will find some of the Grape Gastrique, Cranberry Cabernet Jam and two new cookies - Chewy Oatmeal Cranberry Orange and Crispy dunkable Gingersnaps. The ducks are there for you to visit, the chickens are still laying, so you'll likely find eggs in the store and the views are pastoral and lovely.
Get off the beaten path and onto a new adventure! Stop out for a unique farm visit and then amble over for lunch in Plum City - I'd love to see you!
Sending love from the farm,