Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fox Grapes

When I was a little girl, I distinctly remember going to the Blue Ridge Mountains with my family to pick fox grapes. The experience is perhaps more vivid and distinct because while we were picking, my brothers and I ran off through the woods and were attacked by stinging ground wasps. I was stung over 20 times, but that was the day we discovered that my brother was allergic to bees, similar to my mom, who was deathly allergic. He ended up in the hospital overnight. And even now, as I laugh at the memory (I ran screaming, down the road, throwing off my clothing along the way--wasps were in my pants, in my hair, everywhere, and my mom had to look on in horror from a distance because she couldn't help us), the taste of those wild grapes is a sweet and fragrant elixir permanently etched into my hypothalamus. So, when Dahlia came home from a walk with a basket full of grapes (I'm not sure what strain) last week, those memories came flooding back---I was filled with nostalgia, the sweet, the sour, the crunch of the seeds, that particular musky grapeness---it was like a little bit of my childhood neatly encapsulated in those powdery clusters of little berry orbs.
Dahlia and I decided to make grape juice. So we washed the grapes and mashed them in a large pot.
After gently simmering for about 10 minutes, we strained the mixture. you can see how the pigments really start to come out of the skins, and the mixture becomes a rich purple red color.
I decided to forgo the cheesecloth because I felt it would remove too much of the good stuff, so the juice is more like a thick cider, but it is creamy and delicious! Noting that there was still a lot of color and grape fragrance to the mash after straining, I decided to make grape mash vodka. I'll let the vodka infuse for several weeks, but it surely does smell delightful!
The grape mash vodka is on the right, the other two are elderberry.

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