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Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

When we moved to this place almost five years ago, the whizened but still productive apple trees in the back yard really appealed to us.  It took another year for us to discover the old grapevine, long since whacked back by lawnmowers that had no idea what they were hitting.  Then my husband coaxed it to produce grapes, but we discovered that timing was crucial; frost killed them one year, inopportune rain another, but mostly we had to beat the raccoons to the bounty.  This year, everything came together perfectly.  We had decent rain this spring.  We had a dry summer as the grapes were ripening.  We beat the raccoons.

Late last week, I tasted a few grapes.  Mmmm.  The ones with the golden glow were ripe.

Then I started looking for jelly and jam recipes and learned that the best grape jam or jelly is made from a blend of ripeness of grapes.  We picked the rest–about seven pounds total.

Then I had to pick my recipe.  I decided on a recipe for grape jam from an 1899 cookbook that belonged to my great-grandmother, plus pectin to make sure the jam jelled.  It was simple.  I could use some of the fruit but avoid having to deal with the thick skins.  I could feel the familial and historical ties.

I picked the grapes off the vines and then triple washed them to make sure they were really clean.  I then mashed them with a potato masher, cooked them with a little water for about ten minutes, and re-mashed.  Then I used a food mill to separate the skins and seeds from the flesh, yielding more than 10 cups of juice with pulp from about 7 pounds of grapes on the vine.

Next I added about one and a half cups of sugar.  Honestly, I didn’t want to add any, but I only had regular pectin on hand and thus added the sugar.  After tasting that low-sugar addition, I opted for a low-sugar pectin after all.  I added the pectin as recommended and processed the jars for 10 minutes.  I got 9 half-pints and one stubby jar plus a little extra that I refrigerated.  If you notice that we’re missing almost a cup from the juice measurement, you’re right.  We had to drink some!  Next year I’ll can more to drink.

Tackling a new canning project is easy, once you know the basics.  It’s an easy step from basic pickles to jams and jellies and canning high-acid vegetables like tomatoes.  In a few weeks, I’ll be posting a recipe and procedure for making marinara (spaghetti sauce) using a pressure canner, which is a wonder that will let you can low-acid products safely.

Now, for all of you horticulturists and viticulturists out there, can you tell me what kind of grapes we have?  They are a seeded, thick-skinned variety, which makes me think I should have made wine instead of jam.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.  All rights reserved.


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Recently it occurred to me that while we generally do a good job of seeking organic, local food, we have a few major flaws in our consumption.  One is real parmesan cheese, which we use judiciously.  The other flaw has to do not with what we eat but what we drink.  Bottles of wine, after all, can come from all over the world, and they may not be produced under ideal environmental conditions.  Therefore, I went hunting for US-produced organic wines.  If you don’t have an incredibly sophisticated palate for wine (we don’t!–and neither do most people), the organic wines that are readily available to have with dinner and are affordable are just fine.  All are more than a few steps above Franzia.  All are appropriately priced for any wine with their attributes, organic or not.  As a matter of fact, one recent study indicates that they may be underpriced!

Have you tried organic wines?  Which are your favorites?

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I guess if I had to explain this recipe inspiration, I’d say it’s the dried figs and bleu cheese sitting in my fridge and the chicken in my freezer.  I’ve been getting a tangy, creamy bleu cheese (blue cheese) from a Minnesota creamery that rivals European bleus.  The figs are organic but, sadly, all the way from California.  The pasture-raised chicken came from Falling Sky Farm in Marshall, Arkansas.  All of the ingredients are available either certified organic or, like the chicken, organically raised without certification.  Together the ingredients meld into an elegant dish that might work for date night.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or less–the figs already make this dish sweet)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • seasoning:  salt, pepper, dried oregano
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed (We thought 4, sliced, was too much.)
  • 6 dried figs, cut into bite-sized pieces and soaked in 1/4 cup brandy or marsala (non-alcohol alternative:  use 2 tablespoons of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar)
  • 2 ounces of crumbled bleu cheese (alternative:  try goat cheese!)
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pound the chicken breast between plastic wrap until it is thinned to be about double its non-pounded size.  Lightly sprinkle on salt, pepper, and dried oregano on the inside.  Spread the fig pieces (save the brandy or marsala!), crumbled bleu cheese, crushed garlic and walnuts over about half of the chicken breast.  Roll up the chicken sushi-style, stuffed side first, and position it in the baking pan with the seam on the underside.  I used a 2-quart Dutch oven and was able to push the ends of the roll into the pan sides, helping to hold in the bleu cheese. Lightly sprinkle the outside with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  If any figs fell out during the rolling process, put them in the pan too.

Mix together the mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, and brandy or marsala left over from soaking the figs.  Spread half of the mixture over the top of the rolled-up chicken.  Reserve the rest for basting.

Bake chicken in a 325 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, basting every 5 or 10 minutes while the chicken bakes.  Cut the chicken on an angle into 2 or 3 servings.

I served this chicken with a hearty whole-wheat roll a big salad of mesclun and grated radish and carrots.

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