Concord grapes, fresh out of a Flemish still life painting, tumble in mounds at the greenmarkets of New York this week.
These early-ripening grapes thrive in our rocky soil. America’s favorite grape for jam and juice was named for the village of Concord, Massachusetts, and grow up and down the cooler, northern reaches of the East Coast.
Interestingly, the concord grape was developed in 1849 by Ephraim Wales Bull, who won a prize with the dusky purple fruits at the Boston Horticultural Society Exhibit. And though the variety became instantly popular, he never made any money from his harvest. His gravestone reads, “He sowed. Others reaped.” So yeah, a little bitter.
Concord grapes have seeds. Maybe that doesn’t bother you, in which case, eat away. For the rest of us, they’re best used in syrups – halve, then cook with a scant sprinkle of sugar and a splash of water, then press through a sieve – or pressed into juice (also available at the market).
The juice can be used to deglaze the pan drippings from a roast chicken, or boiled down to a reduction, as a glaze for roast pork. The syrup is a great addition to a vodka and soda with lime, as gothic a purple as you could want in days before Halloween.
If you’re up for a bit of kitchen work, try halving and pitting concords to make a salad with mesclun greens, crushed roasted peanuts, and a tangy lime, olive oil vinaigrette.
“I love working with concords,” says Diana Hardeman, founder of MilkMade ice cream. “They’re so bright — in flavor and color, bursting with that sweet, nostalgic grape flavor that reminds you of PBJ sandwiches when you were a kid. This year we have a Harvest Moon flavor. It’s concord grape ice cream with oatmeal-peanut-butter moon balls. ” Check it out at the Tasting Room (204 Sackett Street Brooklyn; 347-422-0879)