Is there anything more succulent than a cluster of dusty yet shiny, tight purple globes hanging on the vine? Whenever I go grape picking, I really have to restrain myself: I want to just grab them all. It's such a textile event. There is something about grapes that you just want to squeeze. Their weight and firmness feels good in your hand, and of course biting into them is a pleasure of their own. The chewy and slightly tannic skin starts sweet and ends a touch bitter. It yields to the gelatinous yet tensile flesh inside. Both are an almost obvious pleasure, followed by the gratifying separation of the heart-shaped bitter pit with your tongue. Even the spitting out of the seeds is satisfying.
I was thinking of a sweet preparation for these particular red sheridan grapes, but was intrigued by a suggestion from a friend on Instagram. She said chutney. My mind doesn't normally think of a chutney when thinking of grapes, but it was a brilliant idea. I almost made it. In particular, this one from the Cozy Herbivore. But instead I started thinking of mostarda, that fabulous fruity mustard (mustardy fruit?) that hails from Italy.
Adapted from Grape Mostarda, Bon Appetit
Yield: 2 half-pint jars
About two pounds of local red sheridan grapes (I'm betting any local, sweet variety would do well)
1 small white onion, chopped finely
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon of dried red chili pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon of candied citrus (or you can use citrus zest)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
First, prep the grapes. Slip the innards from the skin into a saucepan. Reserve the skins in a bowl. Simmer the grape innards for about ten minutes--you will notice the flesh separate from the seeds. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit. Then press it all through a food mill to remove the seeds. Add the flesh to the skins. Sauté the onion in a small bit of olive oil until just softened. Then add the grapes, and the rest of the ingredients, except the mustard. Get it to a good simmer, and let it cook for about twenty minutes, until it looks glossy and thick. Add the mustard. Turn off the heat and pour into clean jars. Keep refrigerated.
I think this mostarda is best after sitting a few days, and it should keep in the fridge for quite some time. The recipe makes two half-pint jars, and a little goes a long way, so you might want to gift some of this to a friend or serve it at a party with cheese. The color is amazing, and it's slightly zingy due to the red pepper. The little mustard seeds give it a caviar-like pop in each bite. I couldn't resist and we had some for dinner the day I made it: a baguette, a creamy French bleu cheese, soppressata and a bottle of wine. Aren't those the best dinners? The next day I had the leftovers in a sandwich. Heaven! But upon tasting it again today, it's much better now that the intense flavors have had time to mingle.