Kate Johnson offers many uses for grapes.
This time of year brings me around to grape harvesting time. This year, my first harvest yielded 42 pounds of nice looking deep purple Glenora Grapes.
I typically use my steam juicer and then can the juice in quart jars in a water bath. This year I ended up with 14 quarts but instead of using the water bath method of canning, I purchased and used a new “steam” canner. This made a significant difference in the amount of time and water involved and thus made the canning process much, much more efficient.
I had always wanted to make some jelly, however, I simply could not abide by the amount of sugar that was required (4 cups juice to 5 cups sugar). I did some research this year and ended up purchasing a low-to-no sugar pectic called Pomona’s Universal Pectin.
It is an interesting process as you must mix and add some calcium water (provided with the pectin) as that is what activates this pectic product — not sugar. The pectin comes from the dried peels of lemons, limes and oranges and is, therefore, vegan.
The sugar requirements for the recipe was 4 cups juice to between ¾ to 2 cups of sugar, which was much better. I went ahead and stuck with the low end on the sugar and made a triple batch of jelly. Something else that was unique to the Pomona’s Pectin is the recipe allows you to alter the batch size; something that is not recommended with regular pectin.
The outcome was acceptable, however, I do think it could be better. It ended up being a bit more gelled than I would have liked and it could probably have used 1-to 1.5-cups of sugar per batch. As a first try I was quite happy.
I do recommend this pectin to anyone who is watching their sugar intake. You can also use any kind of non-sugar sweetener in their recipes.
Lastly, each year I try one new recipe that includes grapes. Some years ago, I believe I shared a Concord grape and pear pie recipe that was quite outstanding. This year I tried roasted sausages and grapes and it was literally over the moon. There are a number of these recipes out there floating around, however, I went with a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa “Behind the Scenes” episode where she shared the 30-year recipe from a local favorite restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. called Al Forno. I made up a batch of my artisan bread dough a few days prior and then fashioned a nice loaf of focaccia bread to soak up the delicious goodness of this recipe. It is a very quick and easy recipe and oh so good. I hope you will enjoy!
Roasted Sausages and Grapes
1.5 pounds Italian hot sausage
1.5 pounds Italian sweet sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5-6 cups green seedless grapes or (2 pounds) red, stems removed
2-4 tablespoons dry red wine preferably Chianti
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Fresh Focaccia or Ciabatta bread, to serve
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Parboil the sausages in water and cover for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat.
Melt the butter in a large heatproof roasting pan, add the grapes, and toss to coat. Over moderately high heat, add the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the wine has reduced by half.
Using tongs, transfer the parboiled sausages to the roasting pan and push them down in the grapes so the sausages will not brown too quickly. Roast in the oven, turning the sausages once, until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned, 20- to 25-minutes.
Place the roasting pan on top of the stove over a medium-high heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the roasting pan, and allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausages and grapes to a serving platter.
Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately, accompanied with fresh bread.
Kate Johnson is a long-time resident of Carson City. She is an avid gardener, cook, musician and lover of dogs.