I have really been into Concord Grapes this season. I have been eating them nonstop. I have made several rounds of sorbet and ice cream. There is something so exquisitely nostalgic about the taste of Concord Grapes. No other grape tastes so classically “grape” and no other have the same dark luscious color. It is the complete and utter taste of the grape of my childhood. We had wild Concord grapes growing on the backside of our barn and on a huge boulder settled in the center of the apple orchard. We did nothing to keep them but they kept giving to us to us year after year.
I have a vivid memory from when I was about five or six of sitting at the kitchen table on a late fall afternoon, the air in the kitchen was heavy with the smell sugar and grapes. It was a jam weekend. I sat for what seemed forever, watching the absurd bundle of smashed grapes drip through the many layers of cheesecloth twisted and stained and tied in a tidy knot. The juice of the grapes fell steadily into a large bruised ironstone bowl that sat in the middle of the long slate sink. The sound somewhat hypnotized me as the last of the late afternoon sun pierced the air and tiny dust particles floated about. As night settled in the only movement was the cat brushing against my leg and the constant plip, plip, plip of the grape.
Yes, Concord grapes have seeds but I have no issues with the seeds. Life is not seedless.
A Non Traditional Concord Grape Sorbet and Ice Cream
The first time I set out to make Concord grape ice cream and sorbet I had a houseful of girls and not a lot of time and one of them was allergic to eggs, so I decided to try my luck with a non-egg ice cream and a straight up sorbet. Eggs are essentially there in ice cream to act as an emulsifier and to create a light custard so I wasn’t sure how my non egg ice cream was going to work out. I started with 8 cups or so of Concord grapes, which I destemmed. I made my grape juice concentrate by cooking down the grapes until just soft, cooling them, then pulsating them in a blender for a quick moment. I then ran them through a sieve to separate the seeds and the solids from the juice. After transferring the juice back to a pot, I added 1 cup of sugar and returned the grape juice to the low flame, while stirring constantly until the sugar was dissolved. I then cooled the grapes juice until luke warm and added two cups of heavy cream. Stir until blended. (Don’t worry if it does not look completely mixed, it will integrate fully later when it goes in the ice cream maker.) I put the mixture of cream and grape juice in the freezer in a metal bowl to chill. When it was completely cold after and hour or so, I poured it into the bowl of my Cuisinart ice cream maker and followed instructions. When the ice cream had formed I transferred it to a shallow container with a top and put it in the freezer to further set. It was a vibrant grape color and deliciously creamy, the texture seemed totally fine to me and the girls had no complaints in fact they could not eat enough of it!! So, was this an ice cream ? I am not sure. Most ice cream recipes tend to call for eggs, so does it technically count? Or was it something akin to frozen Concord grape cream? I really don’t know. I just know it was delicious.
I made the sorbet the same exact way with the exception of not using cream. I started with 8 cups of concord grapes, roughly two quarts. I destemmed the grapes and threw them all in a pot with 1 cup of water and the juice of half a lemon. I cooked them down until soft, mashing them a bit. When they seemed soft, I set them aside to cool. I then transferred them in two batches to the blender and gave them a quick pulse to chop them up a bit further. (This is just a quick pulse; you don’t want to chop the seeds to bits!) I then ran the puree through a sieve to separate the seeds and solids from the juice. I transferred the juice back to the pot on low heat and added one cup of sugar stirring constantly until the sugar was dissolved. I put the mixture into a metal bowl in the freezer to chill. When it was completely cool, I transferred the liquid to the Cuisinart ice cream maker and followed instructions. When the sorbet formed, I transferred it to a shallow container with a top and placed it in the freezer to set. The result was a very dark and juicy Concord sorbet.
If you are stickler and have the time, you can deseed the grapes before you cook them down. I don’t choose to do it that way.
Below is a recipe for a more traditional way of making an ice cream. For me cooking is about experimenting and inspiration I follow very few rules except when it comes to hardcore baking because no one likes a saggy cake!
Concord Grape Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup of milk
1 ¾ cups sugar cups
¼ cup water
8 cups concord grapes
pinch of sea salt
Place the grapes in a large saucepan with ¼ cup water and cook over low heat until bubbling. Smash the grapes with a wooden spoon to break them up a bit.
When the grapes are soft. Cool, then place in a blender for a quick pulse to further break them up.
Strain the grape solids and seeds from the juice through a sieve and set the juice aside to cool.
In the meantime,
Combine the cream, milk and half the sugar in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat.
In a separate bowl whisk the yolks with the other half of the sugar.
When the cream mixture is just heated, whisk a cup or thereabouts, 1/4 cup at a time, into the eggs until the sugar and cream is fully combined with the egg yolks and sugar. Transfer back to the pot and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly for a few minutes until the mixture has just thickened to a light custard
Combine the cooled grape juice and the custard until integrated. Don’t worry if it does not fully mix, it will later in the ice cream maker.
Pour into a large bowl and chill.
When the mixture has cooled completely. Transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker follow. Once the ice cream has formed, remove it from the ice cream maker and pack the ice cream into a shallow container with a top, and freeze for a few hours. Your ice cream is then ready!