Thursday, August 27, 2009

you've got to run for an hour and you're still not done


Where were we?

Fox grapes!

Okay, check it out: FOX GRAPES.  Right here and now.

This is my reward, arriving -- coincidentally -- on my table the very day after I finished an immense workload that occupied my month and kept me away from the blog.  And one hell of a reward it is.

Fox grapes are the wild ancestor of the better-known Concord grape, and like Concords, Muscadines, and Scuppernongs, it's a slipskin grape, meaning that the skin is tougher than that of supermarket grapes, and with a squeeze, the skin will pop the pulp right out, like the peeled eyeball hanging from the socket of some midnight movie victim.

Fox grapes

I dig Concord grapes.  They're great grapes, especially if you can buy them where they're grown, instead of in a produce case a few thousand miles from their home.  But fox grapes, man, fox grapes take it to another level.  The skins are thicker and tougher, like the muscadines I've known.  The taste, and the smell ... good lord.  Concords have a hint of wild grapes' "foxiness," but the real thing has it in spades -- this musky smell like, well, like a wet fox.  It's below the grape smell, but worth paying attention to.

I grew up with fox grapes, a million years ago when southern New Hampshire was still sorta rural instead of a big suburb.  I grew up around plenty of wild food, from wild strawberries, wintergreen, and blueberries up at the lake to the grapes, blackberries, chives, and rhubarb that grew around the house.  I would've said wild strawberries were the best of it all, but I don't know, these grapes are fantastic -- maybe I'm not giving enough credit to the wild grapes of my childhood.

To do much with fox grapes -- or any slipskin grapes -- other than eating them out of hand, you need to squeeze the pulp out of all the skins, rub it through a strainer to get the hard pebble-like seeds out, and then proceed with whatever it is you're doing.  Thicker skins usually benefit from some cooking to soften them up too.

Me, I kept a bunch of them aside for eating, made a small grape/huckleberry tart, two jars of jam (good grape jam is ridiculous), and a jar of "maraschino grapes" -- fox grapes with maraschino liqueur, sugar, and corn whiskey.

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