10.1.12 Came, Saw, Concord

Sandwich 2 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
It's October. How did that happen? If I close my eyes, I can see the pages of the calendar being ripped off and whisked away by the violent winds of time. And yet I can still taste the cream-cheese-&-jelly sandwich I ate with my daddy when he took me to lunch at the deli after nursery school. Time is so mysterious and elastic. Most of us are traveling back with as much frequecy as we move forward. Nothing evokes memory quite as viscerally as taste. Sometimes you can reclaim the past with just one bite. And now and then you can improve upon it, rendering the present moment that much sweeter. Here's a little variation on a theme: the schoolyard lunch, all grown up.
Concords 790 xxx
blue notes
It all started with an enormous box of Concord grapes, a cultivar of the wild species found ripening in the hills now, Vitis labrusca, or fox grape, so-called for its "foxy" sweet muskiness. (Truth.) Next to Muscats, Concords are the most fragrant grapes, evoking that distinctive Welch's taste. As I do evey fall, I made a big batch of sorbet spiked with fennel pollen, and it was immensely satisfying, but I was still left with a big, tantalizingly fragrant bowl of Concords.
Fennel pollen 790 xxx
dust to dust
The combination of sweet, winey Concords and sharp, piney fennel pollen is a match made in heaven, by the way. Still haven't tried fennel pollen? I advise you to seek some out and begin sprinkling it on everything from soups to nuts, literally. It's reminiscent ot fresh fennel and fennel seeds, but has its own subtly anise-like perfume.
Jam 790 xxx
all jammed up
I used the remaining grapes for jam. I'm not a big grape jelly fan, never have been, always preferring more voluptuous apricot or strawberry jam. But I'm hooked on this. It has a richer, more sensuous feel in the mouth, for one thing. And, spiked with fennel pollen, it ascends to new heights. Make a small batch to keep in the fridge, or buy a flat of grapes and put some up. I made just three precious jars and I'm hoarding them like a squirrel with its winter stash.
Sandwich 790 xxx
childhood, updated
When the jam was done and cooled and ready, I concocted the ultimate sandwich: walnut butter, grape-fennel jam and paper-thin slices of crisp, cold fennel on toasted multi-grain bread. I don't think this is the taste of anyone's childhood, but it should be.
 

Concord Grape Jam with Fennel Pollen

makes 4-6 half-pint jars
  • — 5 lbs Concord grapes, rinsed and drained, large stems removed
  • — 2 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • — 4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • — 1 generous tablespoon fennel pollen
  • — 2 piches sea salt

Before you start, place a small plate in the freezer; you will use this later to test the jam.

Place grapes and 1 cup of water in 4- to 6-quart wide, heavy pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently and mashing with a wooden spoon, until pulp is broken down, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly and then force through a fine mesh strainer, tamis or chinois, extracting as much juice and pulp as possible, and leaving behind skins, stems and seeds. Discard solids.

Rinse out the pot and return grape mixture to it. Add lemon juice, sugar, fennel pollen and salt and cook at a slow boil, skimming foam occasionally and stirring frequently as mixture thickens to prevent scorching, about 45 minutes.

Test for doneness by dropping a teaspoonful of jam on a chilled plate; chill 1 minute. Then tilt the plate: the jam should remain in a mound and not run. If jam runs, continue cooking at a slow boil, testing every 5 minutes, until done, up to 25 minutes more.

Seal and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes, or jar and give away for immediate use, or just hoard in your own fridge.



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10 Comments

are you psychic? how did you know I've been meaning to get fennel pollen? thanks for the nice post, you can't imagine how much I've been missing pbj....xo
stephanie on October 1, 2012 at 10:07 am — Reply
Yes, I am the world's first food psychic, able to intuit cravings with remarkable accuracy.
laura on October 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm — Reply
My delight at this post is only tempered by the fact that it is reminding me I forgot to harvest fennel pollen from the patch I grow behind my shed! What a great sandwich!
val on October 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm — Reply
Better get out there, Val, before it all blows away (you lucky girl)!
laura on October 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm — Reply
I always love your distinctively creative blog post titles, and you never disappoint. (No pressure.) I have such vivid memories of growing up in Pennsylvania and the smell of concord grapes in full, heavy fruit. It is one of the smells that sings late summer / early fall to me. And as for the fennel pollen, I'm a fan thanks to your wonderful strawberry fennel ice cream that made finalist on Food52 some time ago. It prompted me at the time to search it down and start playing with it, starting with your ice cream.
The Wimpy Vegetarian on October 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm — Reply
Welcome home! That was a long trip. Hope you feel better soon. (P.S. My titles reflect what I do for a living: copywriter...)
laura on October 2, 2012 at 7:39 am — Reply
Susan, I have bittersweet memories of that Food52 contest, but am so glad the ice cream lives on. Have you been on a bit of a hiatus? Miss your posts...
laura on October 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm — Reply
Yes, but I plan to start posting again this week. Hopefully tomorrow. I was lucky enough to spend the month of September in Italy and just flew back home. Unfortunately with a bad cold and I'm suffering for that long flight now. It was glorious to spend that much time over there. Although I must admit I'm also happy to be back home now.
The Wimpy Vegetarian on October 2, 2012 at 12:58 am — Reply
A lovely post- combination of Proust and cooking! Nothing like food to take us into the past. You made me hungry and nostalgic at the same time!
Amin Ahmad on October 4, 2012 at 6:54 pm — Reply
Happy Fennel Friday! We LOVE this recipe and it is featured on our Falling for Fennel Pollen Recipes! Thanks so much for sharing! http://fennelfriday.com/falling-for-fennel-pollen-recipes/
Fennel Friday on October 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm — Reply