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one of nature’s greatest gifts here in the south are the scuppernong and
muscadine grapes. having lived in ohio and eaten the ripe blue concords for years,
my palette was astounded to find such a fine flowery spicy-sweet taste in a mere
grape! each variety has its own subtle flavors, and like coffee or wine, can be
described in exotic and unusual terms. the scuppernong is a larger gold-green globe
that is primarily an eating grape. when the kids were young, and craving a
sweet snack, these juicy treats were ideal. the burst of sweetness in your mouth
is wonderful and many people drink their nectar and spit out the seeds and
slightly tart flesh. i enjoy eating the inner grape, and the seeds are easily
removed and discarded. a bowl of these bronze-gold beauties on the table
will disappear quicker than you can say their name!
the muscadine cultivars have been bred from the wild fox grapes that climb high
into the tall pines seeking the light. they are dark reddish, dark purple, and the tiniest
marble sized “Regals” are almost black…. these are used more for jellies and for
winemaking. their flavor is the grapiest grape of all. it is a good ripe concord, much
today i went and picked 5# of “Regal”muscadines at a local farm nearby. i am planning
to make red wine-dark jelly for christmas presents. it is a special treat, a home-made gift,
as well as jelly that cannot be found anywhere else. i have finally perfected the art of a good
jelly, and eager requests for more have saved me money over the years.
this year i’ll make enough jelly for my family, but i have decided that
the majority of the sweet juice will go to winemaking…the very old-fashioned way.
i learned to make wine in quart mason jars from a friend’s 90-year-old great aunt.
when we were young, and playing in her yard, we occasionally heard a loud
explosion. the explanation was ” that’s just Aggie’s wine blowing up”… apparently
it happened often enough to be blase about such a loud noise. she kept her boxes
of jars in a cool dry place under her house, so the damage was minimal. the wine jar’s
fermentation must be “burped” at least weekly to allow the pressure to escape, a task
assigned to various young relatives ( and often forgotten) she would lose a couple jars
in each batch, but we eagerly awaited a taste every year. she would serve her dark delicious wine at thanksgiving and christmastime. all the children got a glass at dinner and we’d get
a bit tipsy. this recipie yields a semisweet, slightly effervescent wine. if the grapes are very ripe, and brewed long enough, it can have a pretty high alcohol content. however, it is a simple old-timey method, and the product somewhat unreliable….so unlike the more scientific,
home brewing of today.
so, here is Aggie’s muscadine wine recipie- it is simple and fun, and only dangerous
if left untended too long between letting the air out-just a small release of air by a
brief loosening of the jar lid. fill a quart jar with fresh-picked unwashed muscadine
grapes, add 1 T. sugar and fill with water to about an inch from the brim. do not tighten
the lids too much, just enough to keep the jar closed. keep in a cool dark place, and check
for bubbles every 4 days or so. the air bubbles will need to be released more frequently as fermentation begins. after the first 2 weeks, the process slows down and a weekly release
of air is all that is necessary. be sure not to open the jar, just loosen, release the built up air.
and gently re-tighten the lid. the wine is “done” when the wild yeast on the grapes have exhausted all the sugars, and there are few or no more fermentation bubbles.
a thin white layer of sediment-tartaric acid- will be visible at the jar’s bottom.
you must decant the clear wine with a siphon- i use a turkey baster- and not disturb
this layer. it is somewhat bitter and will make cloudy wine.
and there you have it… not very sophisticated, but the wine is very good, a tiny bit sparkly
and made by your own hand. i have made it time to time over the years, and my usual
regret is not making more. it is a lovely dessert wine, made even more delectable
because it is the literal “fruits of your labor” that you bring to the holiday table.
i hope you give it a try. i think any grape( unwashed, with wild yeast) would work,
but the muscadine flavor is unsurpassed by any other grape.
enjoy your efforts…i will certainly be enjoying mine!