The moral of this story is that impulse buying at the farmers’ market (or grocery store) leads to a lot of work if you don’t want to throw that out the exotic item you bought without really knowing what to do with it.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the farmers market right after my exercise class. I meant to just pick up some granola because we had plenty of our own vegetables in the house. But I was hungry, and there was a farmer from Michigan who had Concord grapes.
Concord grapes remind me of childhood, grape soda and church. Childhood and grape soda are pretty obvious connections. Most people who drink grape soda are probably children who outgrow it as they get older. In my case, I had it rarely as a child. My mom didn’t buy junk food like that. But I remember once having a movie night at my elementary school, and all the kids had popcorn and either grape or strawberry soda, which is known in Michigan as red pop. It was a big event that must have made quite an impression on me because I still remember that soda.
The flavor of Concord grapes reminds me of church because I grew up as a United Methodist. The church frowns on alcohol and doesn’t use wine in Communion. Instead, it offers Welch’s grape juice. My mom says Welch was a major Methodist. I should check sometime to see if that’s true.
Anyway, I bought a quart-size box of grapes and took them home, meaning to pack them in my lunch. I’d never had an actual Concord grape before, and I was surprised to find they all had seeds. I eat lunch at my desk, so I couldn’t sit there spitting out seeds all afternoon. I decided to wait, take the grapes with me to Wisconsin on my day off and eat them there.
Unfortunately, some of the grapes got squished in transit. In my mind, there’s only one thing to do with squishy fruit: make purée. I did that, but then faced another question. How to use it?
Usually, I eat fruit purée in my oatmeal, but grape oatmeal didn’t sound that appetizing. I thought about making muffins because I often add fruit purée to those for flavor, but grape muffins didn’t sound so great either. Then I remembered my blueberry pudding. I should be able to make that with the grape purée without any problem, I thought.
And, in fact, it was quite easy and fast as I already had the purée made. I made on significant change to the recipe, cutting the sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/4 because the grape purée was significantly sweeter than that of any of the berries I’ve used in previous variations.
The pudding was OK, not great. The grapes have the kind of dominant flavor needed to make it work, but I just didn’t like the grape version as much as I like variations with blueberries and raspberries. I probably won’t make it again, but it was an interesting experiment.
Concord Grape Pudding
1 quart (or so) of Concord grapes
3/4 cup water (split into 1/4 and 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons farina (this is the base for Cream of Wheat, and you can use original Cream of Wheat if you can’t find plain farina)
Put the grapes in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water and heat over medium heat until the grapes are soft and release liquid. Run them through a food mill to get rid of the seeds and skins. You should end up with roughly 3 cups of puree.
Return the puree to the saucepan and add 1/2 cup water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Taste it and see if it’s sweet enough for you. If not, add more sugar in small doses until you are satisfied. Heat the mixture until it is hot, but not quite boiling.
Gradually stir in the farina. Continue to cook and stir until farina is translucent and the pudding is thickening. Pour it into a bowl and let it cool. Serve cool. Store in the refrigerator.