Friday, April 6, 2012


I grow grapes in my yard and like raspberries have to compete with the birds for  harvesting them.  I don’t mind though.  I feed the birds and they give me pleasure so share my grapes with them.  I have made my back yard bird friendly and let them share in my wealth.  I have just started seedless grapes and I’m waiting for them to mature so I can harvest them.  I have also planted Concord grapes with seeds that I usually used  for grape juice for the grandsons.  I’m not real experienced in grapes yet, so will learn as I go.   Other than making juice with them, I have not made jam or tried to preserve them, but both those ways are good.  I am growing red and green seedless grapes for the table.  I have a trellis that I am training them on so they can hang down.  They are a high maintenance plant because of the growth of runners each day. 


The exact origin of the grape is not really known, although many believe it to be Asia Minor, the Caspian Sea region or Armenia. Origin notwithstanding, the grape is one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world, dating back to the earliest civilizations. While some suggest that grapes go back 7000 years to western Asia, drawings in ancient Egyptian burial sites indicate that grapes were grown as early as 2375, BC, with cultivation in China even earlier.


Grapes are a great source of potassium, making them a great summer snack. Credited with many medicinal properties, grapes are a rich source of vitamin B-6, C and thiamine. Grapes are also used very often in natural medicine to purify the system, as a diuretic and a vehicle to re-mineralize the blood.


Grapes are just amazing eaten fresh off the stem, but can be juiced, put in fruit salads, tarts, syrups,  jams, jelly, vinegar, wine and savory dishes.  In savory dishes they add a sweet something that is without compare and because of their gentle sweetness complement opposite flavors.


Grapes don't require direct sunlight on the fruits to ripen and develop good color. Rather, it is the amount of light that reaches the plant's leaves that governs the quality of the fruit. The leaves manufacture the sugars that are then translocated to the fruit. To protect your ripening crop from hungry birds, you can place bags over individual fruit clusters beginning when the grapes are about half grown. Use a sturdy brown paper-type bag that will allow enough room for the bunch to develop, and tie securely to the grape cane. Bagging also might help protect the fruits from inclement weather, as excessive rains close to harvest time can cause the grape's skins to split. Of course, bagging is not very practical for larger plantings, in which case netting is the best alternative.


Once you've made the decision to harvest, you can store the grapes, possibly up to eight weeks, depending on the storage conditions. Ideally, grapes should be stored at 32F with 85 percent relative humidity. If you have an abundance of grapes, there are some good alternatives to eating them fresh. If you are lucky enough to have a large harvest,  grapes are excellent for making jellies, jams, juice and wine.

My Story

I do not drink so have never had an interest in wine making, but my brother Dion took up making wine out of everything including dandelions.  His wife would pick the stems and he’d make the wine.  My Grandpa Gombert was a wine maker and my son and Staci are talking about it.  They just planted their first grapes.  Grandpa also made wine from fruit and stored it in the basement for consumption.  Mom says she can still hear the corks popping in the basement.

Elaine’s Grape Juice

I got this recipe from Charmayne who got it from the Kerr Jar canning book.  This is the only recipe I have used for making juice because it is so simple and kids love it. 
Wash one cup Concord grapes, put into sterilized quart jar and add 1/2 cup sugar.  Fill to within 1/2 inch of top of jar with boiling water.  Put on cap, screwing the band firmly tight.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  When serving, just strain through a sieve.  You can use grapes with seeds and there is no work pitting.  

Canned Grapes

Remove stems, Wash grapes.  Pack tightly into jars without crushing to within 1/2 inch of top.  Fill to with 1 1/2 inches of top of jar with boiling sugar syrup (recipe below).  Put on cap, screwing the band firmly tight.  Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath for either pint or quart jars. 


Make syrup according to sweetness desired.  Boil sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved.  You may also use grape juice if you wish. 

Thin syrup 1 cup sugar and 3 cups of water
Medium syrup 1 cup sugar and 2 cups of water
Heavy syrup 1 cup sugar and 1 cup of water

Syrup should be boiling when poured over fruit.

Grape Jelly

Wash, stem and crush grapes, add small amount of water and boil 15 minutes.  Press through strainer.  Measure juice and bring to boil.  For each cup of juice add 3/4 cup sugar.  Boil rapidly to jelly stage.  Pour into sterilized 12/ pint jars.  Fill to within 1/2 of top.  Put on cap, screwing the band firmly tight.  Process 5 minutes in boiling water bath f or either pint or quart jars. 

Crystals often form in grape jelly.  To prevent this allow extracted juice to stand overnight in a cool place.  Next morning carefully pour juice off sediment in bottom of pan discarding the sediment.

Chicken with Grapes and Mushrooms

2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup seedless red grapes, rinsed and dried

Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add chicken breasts. Brown 3 to 5 minutes on both sides until golden.  Add mushrooms, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Deglaze pan with wine or chicken stock, making sure to loosen any brown bits from bottom of pan. Simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in cream. Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove cover. Reduce cream for 3 minutes, until thickened. Add red grapes, and heat through.

Turkey and Grape Salad

1 (8 ounce) package pasta of your choice
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 cups halved seedless red grapes
2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup chopped celery
1 head romaine lettuce leaves, torn into bite size pieces

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and run under cold water to cool. Drain again, and transfer to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Stir this into the noodles to coat. Fold in the grapes, turkey and celery. Chill until serving.  To serve, place a bed of romaine lettuce onto serving plates. Top with the turkey pasta salad.

Easy Grape Salad

1 pound seedless green grapes
1 pound seedless red grapes
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow crème
1 (6 ounce) package slivered almonds

Wash grapes in a colander under running water, and remove all stems. Place in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, stir together the cream cheese and marshmallow crème until smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture over the grapes. Using a rubber spatula or large serving spoon, fold the mixture into the grapes until well coated. Fold in the almonds.

This salad may be served immediately, or covered and refrigerated for 1 hour to set slightly, and to allow flavors to blend.

 Grape Cooler

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup white grape juice
2 tbsp. unsweetened instant tea

In a gallon container, combine the sugar, juices and tea. Add water to measure 1 gallon. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Fruit Smoothie

1 cup blueberries
2 apples - peeled, cored and chopped
1 1/2 cups raspberries
3/4 cup seedless grapes
3 tbsp. white sugar
1 tray ice cubes

In a blender, combine blueberries, apples, raspberries, grapes, sugar and ice. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

Mock Champagne

2 (2 liter) bottles ginger ale, chilled
1 (46 fluid ounce) can pineapple juice, chilled
1 (64 fluid ounce) bottle white grape juice, chilled

To make ice ring: Fill a ring-shaped cake pan to 1/2 with ginger ale. Freeze until partially frozen. At this stage you can place edible flowers, or pieces of fruit around the ring. Fill pan with ginger ale and freeze until solid. Place in punch bowl just before serving.  In a large punch bowl, combine 1 bottle ginger ale, pineapple juice and white grape juice.

Cranberry and Grape Salad

1 pound ground raw cranberries
2 cups white sugar
2 cups seedless grapes, halved
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 pound miniature marshmallows
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a medium bowl, mix cranberries and sugar. In the refrigerator, allow the mixture to stand 4 hours.
Place cranberry and sugar mixture in a colander. Place colander in a large bowl. Allow the mixture to drain 8 hours, or overnight.  Discard drained juices. Place cranberry mixture in a medium bowl. Stir in grapes, walnuts, marshmallows and thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Grape and Avocado Salad

1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes, chopped
1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tbsp. chopped yellow bell pepper
2 tbsp.  chopped sweet onion
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp.  lime juice
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 pinch ground black pepper

Place the grapes, avocado, red pepper, yellow pepper, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Season with lime juice, garlic salt, and black pepper. Gently fold the ingredients together until well mixed. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

White Chocolate Grapes

2 cups white chocolate chips
2 tsp. shortening
1 pound seedless grapes
1 cup finely chopped salted peanuts

Combine the white chocolate chips and shortening in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Spread the chopped peanuts out on a piece of waxed paper or a dinner plate.  Dip clean, dry grapes into the chocolate, then roll in the peanuts. Set on waxed paper until dry. Warm chocolate as needed in the microwave to keep it liquid.

Pork Chops with Grapes and Almonds

1 (10 ounce) container Alfredo pasta sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 (6 ounce) boneless pork chops 
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 (4 ounce) package fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. butter 
12 seedless red grapes, halved
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Pour Alfredo sauce into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until hot. Reduce heat to low, and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper, and place into pan. Cook pork chops until browned on both sides, and no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in mushrooms, and cook for 1 minute before adding basil, oregano, dill, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Continue cooking until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, then pour in wine. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half, quickly stir in the butter.  To serve, place pork chops onto a serving platter and top with the mushroom mixture. Ladle Alfredo sauce over top, and sprinkle with grapes, almonds, and the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley to garnish.

Stuffed Grape Leaves 

1/2 pound grape leaves
2 large onions, finely chopped
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup short-grain or risotto rice
2 tablespoons currants
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped mint
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

If using grape leaves preserved in brine, remove the salt by putting them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them.  Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers. Leave them to soak for 20 minutes, then rinse in fresh, cold water and drain. If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a couple of seconds only, until they become limp, then lift them out. Cut off and discard the stalks.

For the filling, fry the onions in 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until soft.  Add the pine nuts and stir until they’re golden. Stir in the tomato paste until it is well incorporated; add all the rest of the ingredients down to and including the chipped dill.  Mix well and set aside to cool slightly.

On a plate, place the first leaf, vein side up, with the stem end facing you. Place one heaped tablespoon of filling in the center of the leaf near the stem end. Fold that end up over the filling, the fold both sides toward the middle and roll up like a small cigar. Squeeze the filled roll lightly in the palm of your hand and place seam side down on a plate. Fill the rest of the leaves in the same way.

Line the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pan with the tomato slices and any leftover torn, or imperfect grape leaves, then pack the stuffed grape leaves tightly on top.

Mix the remaining olive oil with 2/3 cup of water, add the sugar and lemon juice, and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unrolling.  Cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding more water occasionally if the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Let the grape leaves cool in the pan before turning them out.

Grape Pie 

1/2  cup packed brown
3  tablespoons
2  tablespoons balsamic vinegar, port wine, or grape juice
5  cups
Seedless grapes, halved (about 2 pounds)
1-1/2  cups frozen or fresh red raspberries 
Pastry Dough (Go the fast and easy way and get store bought)
1  egg white
1  tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil; set aside. For filling: In a 4-quart Dutch oven, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar. Add grapes. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Gently stir in raspberries. Transfer filling to a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate. Cover with top layer and cut vents.  Place pie plate on prepared baking sheet.
In a small bowl, use a fork to beat together egg white and the water. Brush pastry cutouts lightly with egg white mixture. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Tomorrow I'll talk about my herb garden.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  


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