The thought of grapes hadn’t even entered my mind as I passed through the crowded farmer’s market, eying the mysterious Japanese eggplant and passing my fingers over plump tomatoes. Amongst the regular cultivars I’d grown used to seeing over the summer, my eye halted at the sight of a newbie – midnight blue grapes coated in white dust. Could it be? Concords! I couldn’t hide my excitement from the farmer, eagerly (but tenderly) gathering up a couple pounds of the delicate grapes. Here in Colorado, the season for such fruit seems to pass with the blink of an eye. Feeling like I’d struck gold, I headed home with my riches. Most of the Concord grape’s flavor is concentrated in its thick skin, and an abundance of pectin means this fruit is well suited to preserving as a jam (find Rachel Saunders’ recipe over at Tasting Table). My first desire was to bake a Concord Grape Focaccia, which you’ll find here on the blog later this week. A few of you who follow Ladomestique on instagram had some great suggestions for cooking with Concord grapes. Talley of House to House blog was kind enough to steer me towards Melissa Clark’s recipe for grape focaccia in the New York Times. Joelle of Home Sweet Homemade suggested grape juice. Gail likes Concord jam. Tori had a fantastic idea for incorporating the fruit into a strudel, and @bablanch pickles the grapes.
I’m planning on trying a few more grape recipes before the season ends, like this Rustic Grape Tart by Sarah of the thoughtful Vanilla Bean blog, this Harvest Cake with Grapes and Sangiovese Syrup, and this stunning Concord Grape Jam Tart from Martha Stewart Living. On the savory side I’ll be nestling grapes into the roasting pan with pork or duck, tossing the fruit into salads of bitter greens with crunchy nuts, and displaying clusters of the jewel toned orbs on the cheese plate with my favorite Marcona almonds. Look to the La Domestique Pinterest page this week for more ideas on cooking with grapes.
You’ll find the tartest, most interesting grapes at farmer’s markets and the like. Often times, farmers grow grapes just for the fun of it and delight in whatever harvest they can bring to the market. Don’t let the small sized specimens fool you, the fruit is bursting with intense flavor and juice. Mass-produced grapes at the grocery store can be one-dimensional in comparison. Some varieties have seeds and others are seedless. I’ve found that removing the seeds isn’t too much of a pain. Store grapes (unwashed) in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator, where they will last for about three days.
As the garden winds down, grapes hang heavy on the vine, ripe and ready to harvest. It feels like the arrival of autumn, time for celebration. A generous pile of grapes on the table symbolizes hospitality. This week, let’s gather around the table with friends and family and feast on this versatile fruit.