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Making Homemade Grape Syrup

Oct 06, 2010

I never knew it had a name. Every year I make a syrup from a vine of deep, blue-black Worden grapes that grows on our arbor. This is incredibly simple to do. I pick all the grapes (more than enough to fill a five-gallon bucket), wash them and put them in two large stockpots, stems and all. Then I set them on the stove over medium heat, and they immediately release their juice.

After an hour or so the skins have shriveled, and much of the liquid has been reduced. I strain out the pomace (the stems, skins and seeds), first in a colander, then in a fine strainer, pressing with a big spoon to get out all the juice. The pomace goes onto the compost pile, and the juice goes back on the stove to reduce further, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Then I freeze or can it in half-pint jars. It's tart, but I leave it unsweetened so that I can adjust the sweetness later, according to the syrup's use.

If I'm just adding a bit to the apples in an apple pie, for extra flavor, I might leave it as is. But usually I'll add some sugar or honey and reduce it a bit more, then let it cool, especially if I'm going to pour it over vanilla ice cream. And that, along with some late ever-bearing raspberries, is exactly the way I served it to my friend Max.

"This is called mosto d'uva!" he exclaimed. "Grape must. It's a specialty of Emilia-Romagna [the region] in northern Italy." And so it was. Prowling the image banks on the Web, I saw it being boiled, bottled, drizzled over fruit, yogurt, custard or cheese, sprinkled onto meats, made into murky, flour-thickened puddings, sipped in small glasses and -- wait -- poured into bathtubs, where near-naked women lay barely submerged.

Am I the last to hear about vinotherapy? This newly popular spa treatment involves immersion in, or slathering with, mashed-up grapes, to imbue one's skin with youth-preserving polyphenols. My idea of vinotherapy is opening a nice bottle of Cotes du Rhone and applying polyphenols from within. But I am happy that there are so many uses for my tasty little home product. I've tried it on lamb chops and on pork belly. Delicious! Next I want to dot it on fresh figs.

If I were more ambitious I might turn it into balsamic vinegar the way they do in Modena (again, in Emilia-Romagna), allowing it to ferment sequentially in barrels of diminishing size, each made from a different wood. After 75 years I'd have something unbelievably special. But mosto d'uva, two hours off the vine, is pretty damn nice. I once bought it in a bottle, under the name of "saba," but it is was not as intense as my home brew -- which is always on hand, along with a quart of ice cream, for a sweet ending to a meal.

Article copyright of Barbara Damrosch, author of "The Garden Primer." Originally published in The Washington Post and reprinted with permission.

Comments

Polyphenol Antioxidant I made a whole cupful of grape juice this year from the grapes on my allotment. Not quite your five gallons Barbara, but you,ve got to start somewhere. My polyphenols are generally antipodean. They are released so much more quickly when they have been upside down. Glenn
What you have made is commonly known in Turkey as Pekmez. It is eaten with yogurt, used in baking and some savory dishes, prescribed by doctors, given to the elderly-infirmed and children as a tonic for everything and is generally a well loved staple. ?t can be also made from mulberries(far superior in my opinion) and from carob pods. ? believe that people in this area (Turkey-Syria-?ran-?raq-Lebanon and ?srael)have made this for generations. ? love it and hope to be making some soon as the colder weather has come upon us. (generally eaten in winter)
I particulary like Barbara,s comment on what to do with a bottle of Cote du Rhone. I must agree. I work at a winery in Washington State USA where we work with ONLY grape varietals originally from the Rhone valley in France. Since I am involved with crushing or pressing up to 140 tons per year, I often end up with a few clusters , or juice from the press that is otherwise destined to be discarded. Most people do not realize how sweet wine grapes actually are. Here we work with grapes that are typically about 25% sugar. That is much too sweet to drink. I have never dropped a hydrometer into a bottle of store bought grape juice for drinking, but I estimate that it may be less than 15% sugar. I have been making jellies, jams and sauce for yogurt out of Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoisse, Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne, and Grenache blanc. Even the unripe clusters work fine. Its all much better than grape jam from Concords.
WoW, this is why I love this site. A simple home recipe has taken me from the U.S. to around the world & back again. I wanted to know if I could use the recipe on other berries, but after reading about great sauce, syrups & cure all. I must use some of my grapes to make this next year.

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