9.20.11 Concord Territory
If you're trying to eat more local foods, grapes may be something you don't get often enough. All year long, I pass up those gargantuan globes flown in from Chile, so it's quite exciting to see the gorgeous blue-black clusters of Concord grapes at the farmers markets. And to smell them! Their gorgeous perfume attracts the bees even in the middle of New York City. I'm lucky enough to have access to another local grape, grown by our friends at River Brook Farm along the Delaware River. Himrod is a native white grape, a choice seedless variety known for its sweet, floral quality that is quite similar to the related Concord. (This is sometimes called a "foxy" flavor because of its musky intensity.) I love its pale chartreuse color, a last lovely reminder of summer's greener pastures. And I've found that it goes perfectly with gin...
But so does Concord grape juice! And it's so easy to make your own. (There's also a fun article in the latest Saveur on making grape soda at home.) Concord grapes are packed with nutrition, including vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus.
The dark skin of Concords is loaded with polyphenols, a phytonutrient (plant-based nutritional component). These act as an antioxidant, protecting your body from cell damage caused by toxins. They strengthen your immune response, heal damage that you may have sustained at the cellular level (especially if you smoke), and could even help protect you from developing some forms of cancer.
Every year, I make a batch of this vivid sorbet, flavored with a hint of fennel that perfectly offsets the grape's sweetness. The referenced post also contains a recipe for making your own grape juice, although you can even skip the cooking step and simply extract the juice cold. Another great use for fresh grape juice, whether purple or green, is in the aforementioned gin cocktail. Serve it with some salted peanuts and it propels the classic kiddie combo of peanut-butter-&-grape-jelly into a decidedly adult sphere.
makes 1 cocktail
- — 4 ounces fresh grape juice, Concord or Himrod
- — 2 ounces gin, preferably Hendrick's
- — tonic water
Combine gin and grape juice in a shaker with plenty of ice. Agitate.
Strain into a rocks glass over ice and top with a splash of tonic water.
Garnish with a sprig of sage, a basil flower or a slice of cucumber.