Take 1/2 cup of the grapes and cut them in half. Remove the seeds with the point of your knife. Set aside. Put the remaining 2 cups of the grapes in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water and cook over medium-high heat until the grapes break down. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to mash all the grapes in the pot. Pour the contents of the pot through a fine strainer over a bowl, pushing on the grapes to get all the juice. Discard the seeds and skins. Put the juice back in the saucepan with the halved grapes, the balsamic, the shallots, the rosemary, the salt and the sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until the compote is reduced and thickened, about 5 minutes.
Cook of the month Sue Wiley and her husband Tom love muscadines. They’ve grown two rows of muscadine vines they started as a hobby
into a 220-vine, you-pick operation. Tom enjoys the growing process. “And my pleasure comes from eating them, especially the black varieties, and visiting with our many repeat customers,” Sue said. She started making basic muscadine jellies, but Tom encouraged her to make some that included the hull, so she did, and this version quickly became his favorite. “He really likes the texture,” she said. “It just adds something extra.”
5 pounds muscadines (black or bronze)
6 cups sugar
1 box Sure Jell
Prepare jars and flats before starting jelly. Keep both in hot water. Wash muscadines. Cut muscadines in half and remove hulls. Cut up hulls. Place hulls in a pan and just cover with water. Cook on medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. If water gets low, add more. When tender, remove from heat and set aside. Place pulp in pan and cover with water. Cook about 15 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and press through sieve to remove seeds. Mix hull mixture and seedless pulp mixture together. You will need 6 cups of this.
Place in large pan and add Sure Jell. Mix well and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar, mix well and return to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam. Pour into hot jars to ¼ inch from the top. Wipe jar top and cover tightly with lid. Place in water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars and place on towel-covered counter to cool. When cool, press on top of lid to check if it’s sealed. If it’s sealed, it won’t spring back.
Refrigerate any unsealed jars. Yield 5-6 pints, or 10-12 half-pints.
Alabama’s only native grapes are as full of valuable nutrients as they are flavor.
Muscadine grapes (of which scuppernongs are one variety) are the native grape of the Southeast and have been growing wild all over the region for centuries. Their verdant vines produce round, plump fruit that once nourished Native Americans, and they were discovered growing freely, climbing up trees and tangling over brush, by Europeans colonizing North Carolina. Today, this grape variety is cultivated all over Alabama in backyards, on farms and at wineries, and wild vines still twist around trunks tucked away in forests and tumble and crawl over fence posts on the edges of fields.
When I was a kid, my mama’s daddy had four lines of scuppernong vines off to one side of his backyard. On any late summer or early autumn visit, my attention was fixed on the sun-warmed, speckled golden orbs that hung from the vines, almost hidden beneath wide green leaves. I’d pick as many as I could reach and pop them in my mouth, devouring their distinct sweetness, earthy and woodsy. The grapes’ thick, sinewy skins make you work for even the tiniest taste; you have to chew through that rubbery exterior while your teeth dodge slippery, bitter seeds. But boy, is it worth it.
I still like eating muscadines straight out of hand. No muss. No fuss. Just a cup for spitting seeds in. They also hold up well to cooking and lend their sweetness to this month’s reader submitted recipes.
For the rest of this week, Alabama Living will be featuring Muscadine recipes. Follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss any of these great uses for Alabama’s grapes.
Immerse and soak plank in water for at least 1 hour, drain. Preheat grill between 350 degrees to 400 degrees (medium-high heat). Combine salt and next 7 ingredients, rub over fish. Place plank on grill rack; grill 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Carefully turn plank over, place fish on charred side of plank. Cover grill with lid and grill fish 25 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork. Cut fish crosswise into slices.
Pour marinade over shrimp and cover all for at least one hour. Put shrimp on skewers and place on medium-hot grill. Cook for two minutes per side until finished. If you don’t want to grill, you can place the shrimp and marinade in a skillet over medium-high heat and sauté until shrimp are done (three to five minutes). Use liquid smoke to give your shrimp grill flavor if you choose to cook indoors.