HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

Muscat raisins

I’m getting a little desperate and so I thought I might pose the query here. For more than 30 years now I’ve made many lovely pints of rhubarb marmalade each June from the rhubarb that I grow in my garden. To make this lovely, very traditional rhubarb marmalade I need the equally lovely flavor-notes provided by muscat raisins, and no other raisin will do. In the long-ago past I used to simply purchase from my corner grocery, and in the more recent years from the e-store run by Sun Maid. Well, they have stopped selling them this year, no doubt due to lack of demand.

And that’s why I’m desperate. I only need a couple of pounds of them but I’m willing to pay a grower or market very handsomely indeed for the muscats themselves and their shipping and handling costs.

Any suggestions of growers, or market shops or someone who might know of a source of muscat raisins would be deeply appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Muscat grapes are still very common in Japan and grown in Australia as well, you might try a source like

    http://global.rakuten.com/en/search?p...

    or a similar online company from Australia if you aren't able to find them anymore in the US.

    http://www.angaspark.com.au/dried-fru...

    Sorry I can't be of much more help.

    23 Replies
    1. re: TeRReT

      TeRReT:

      Thanks so much for your help. I’m pretty sure that what are called muscat raisins in the Japanese page are Sultana. At least the product information states “It is the raisin of Sultana seed (Muscat system) from Turkey”. Even allowing for a computer translation as well as that the name Sultana can be applied to lots of raisins (often Thompson seedless), I’m pretty sure from the photo on the package that these are not real muscat raisins, although muscat grapes are grown in Turkey. [Real muscat raisins have the deep, dark color of prunes, say.]

      And the Angas Park Online Store’s muscats are something called ‘Sunmuscats’ and as stated, they are made from seedless grapes. The one thing I know for sure is that my rhubarb marmalade made with any seedless raisin just does not come close to the original. The reason is that the seeds of the muscat grapes need to be removed and that’s done by a mechanical device after they are dried and this process necessarily results in the skins being broken in many places. This split skin in turn allows the raisins to largely dissolve in the cooking of the marmalade and so they more or less form the delicious base of it. Seedless grapes simply plump up when cooked! Fail.

      Thanks again for your efforts. I have an email in to the raisin marketing board of California and I’m hopeful I can get the name of a small grower of muscat raisins from them. And Sunbeam, of Australia, has a product called 'seeded raisins' and they are, but only in part, made up of Muscat Gordo Blanco grape raisins.

      Gestur

      1. re: gestur

        TeRReT and others who may come by this comment in future looking for a US source of muscat raisins:

        From a combination of persistence and just plain good luck, I've located a source of muscat raisins in evergreen California! Not only that, but they are muscat raisins made from the very venerable Muscat of Alexandria variety, dating to the Roman times and the one that was used in the past. It's name is Fife's Family Farm, in Visalia CA and they are for sale on their website. All's well, that ends well, no?

        1. re: gestur

          I'm very glad you've found the raisins because your description of the marmalade sounds so intriguing and delicious. I have a lovely rhubarb plant at my cottage on Cape Cod--would you consider sharing the recipe?

          1. re: etfontenot

            Here it is:

            GREAT RHUBARB MARMALADE
            Very, very old recipe

            4 lbs. rhubarb
            4 lbs. sugar
            1 lb. seeded raisins (made from Muscat grapes)
            Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
            Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
            1/2 tsp. ground cloves
            1 tsp. cinnamon

            Wash rhubarb and cut into ~ ¾ inch pieces. Cover with the sugar and let stand overnight in a non-reactive pan or large glass bowl. [The juices of the rhubarb are drawn out by the sugar, so you can cook the marmalade without having to add any water.]

            Add remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling point. Reduce heat and cook at a simmer for about 40 minutes or until thick. [As with all jams, this is not necessarily an easy call; I can say for sure that the marmalade is better if you stop sooner rather than later if you have any doubts. To aid in your decision-making and while stirring the marmalade, you might consider imbibing from a glass of nice, dry muscat wine, say a Goldmuskateller/Moscato Giallo from Alto Adige, as I’m prone to do if it isn’t too early in the morning.] Stir often to prevent burning, especially at the end. Pour into sterilized pint glasses. Cover with paraffin. Makes about 7 pints.

            This is really good marmalade, and that isn't just my opinion. But it’s not for everyone. It has a big big mouth-filling flavor to it and, well, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea any more. By big mouth-filling flavor I mean the sort of thing that goes on in your mouth when you take in a forkful of spicy mince-meat pie. Not quite as large as that, but that’s the idea. Of course it goes great on any well made wheat bread, either toasted or plain.

            I might add that I originally came upon this recipe in the local paper as a response from a reader to a call for rhubarb recipes, oh, closing in on 35 years ago by now. And she began her letter/recipe with the message: “I don’t know whether or not you still want rhubarb recipes, but this one was handed down from my great, great grandmother, and is one I always loved as a child.”

            Unfortunately, I don't know the provenance of this recipe, although I'm very curious about it. I've seen others like it online but they leave out one or another of the ingredients, usually the spices. I can't imagine this lovely marmalade without the lovely flavor-notes contributed by the cinnamon and especially cloves. Truth to tell, I grind my own cloves for the extra zip.

            N.B. If the muscat raisins you are able to buy come with all their seeds intact, i.e. they haven’t been de-seeded, then you should cut the raisins and manually extract them. It’s just a pound of them and muscat raisins are large so it won’t take too long. [And that’s where the Moscato Giallo comes to your aid.] You definitely wouldn’t want to encounter muscat seeds, which aren’t tiny, while eating the marmalade. Besides, the cutting of the muscat skins is what allows the raisins to more or less dissolve while they are cooking and thus form the lovely base of the marmalade. Without the cuts they would simply plump up.

            1. re: gestur

              Thanks for this information. We had just tried to order our muscats from Sunmaid :( Need these raisins for my mom's/grandma's raisin bread that has nourished family and friends for many, many years. Our ultimate comfort food, toasted and buttered....If this new source works out, I may even try your marmalade recipe in gratitude! It looks like I'll have lots of rhubarb this year.
              We must encourage more people to use these raisins!!

              1. re: gestur

                I tried ordering muscat raisins from the place you recommended...no reply to order or to our follow up email. Did you get yours?

                1. re: mtladell

                  mtladell, please see my new comment retracting the earlier one. I'm terribly sorry if you got into the same mess I did as a result of my comment. I should have posted this new information sooner, but I was hoping for some decent resolution. My sincere apologies to you, fellow muscat raisin lover. Note the good news at the end, however, for possible future reference.

              2. re: etfontenot

                etfontenot, please see my newly posted comment below.

              3. re: gestur

                Important Comment Amendment/Retraction:

                In my comment above I noted that I had located a grape grower in the San Joaquin Valley that still put up raisins from muscat grapes they grew, offering them for sale online. I regret to say that I *cannot* recommend that anyone else try to order muscat raisins from this firm. My own experience with them was such that I wouldn’t wish to inflict the same grief on anyone else looking to purchase muscat raisins. Specifically, and via its website, I made an order for 4 lbs of muscat raisins from Fife Family Farm. I received an immediate, automated email from them informing me of my order. That, unfortunately, is the last that I’ve heard from them despite emailing them several times. Not hearing back from them at all after 3 full weeks, I was forced to open a dispute resolution through PayPal, through whom I had paid for my order. As FFF did not respond even to my PayPal dispute resolution message, I’ve had to turn this into a formal ‘claim’ at PayPal. After a week, FFF has not responded to this claim notification from PayPal either.

                Hard to say what the problem is. I’m posting this amended comment in the hope that no one else experiences this treatment from FFF on account of my earlier comment. And I apologize to anyone who may have placed an order with them because of my comment and has encountered the problems I have had with them.

                There is, however, a very pleasant ending to this story for me. In the same 2009 LA Times article that I came across FFF, I also learned of another grape grower, Apkarian Family Farms, who also grew muscat grapes but didn’t make raisins out of them, although they do for other seedless grapes they grow. So in an email to them I proposed an agreement to purchase 4 lbs of this season’s muscat grapes, which they would dry into raisins and ship to me when they are ready later this fall.

                And the happy ending here? They were more than happy to agree to do this for me. And I’m more than happy—hell, I’m pleased as punch—to find myself in a “long” position of a futures contract (of sorts) for 4 lbs of muscat raisins! If anyone else is interested, I’m sure they would be willing to do the same. I will note to others who might be interested in this kind of arrangement that I originally inferred that Apkarian Family Farms didn’t make raisins from their Muscat of Alexandria grapes because they probably didn’t own one of the specialized—and I’m guessing expensive—machines that extracts the pips. So I specified that I would be quite happy to get the muscat raisins with their seeds still intact. For me, taking the pips out manually—one lb. at a time for making my marmalade—is not a big chore at all, especially with a nice glass of Moscato Giallo perched nearby. And in return, I get freshly made-up muscat raisins from a family farm that I have talked with, can actually see great photos of online, and who’s accommodating enough to take this “short” position in my futures contract (of sorts). And most importantly, whom I can trust.

                1. re: gestur

                  Thank you for the update. We will also deal with paypal..tho we only ordered two pounds. Will give Apkarian Family Farms a try.

                  1. re: mtladell

                    Again my apologies. You can contact Apkarian Family Farms via email, their address is on their webpage. Linda Raphael will respond back in a bit. Tell her Gestur sent ya!

                    As for the PayPal resolution, I'm pretty confident that you and I will get our money back. I just have never done this before so I don't quite know how they go about doing so. They give the vendor 10 days to get back in the claim cases and then PayPal decides it; in a few days I'll know, though.

                    1. re: gestur

                      Absolutely no apologies needed. Just glad to have a fellow searcher in the hunt. We had started our claim on PayPal last night.

                      1. re: mtladell

                        mtladell: I thought you might like to know that PayPal just informed me that they had decided the case in my favor and were refunding my full payment. I'm sure yours will turn out the same.

                        Meanwhile I've been in touch via email with Linda Raphael at Apkarian Family Farm about ordering some raisins made from a cross of muscat and seedless varieties, one called Princess and the other Diamond Muscat. Very pleasant encounter indeed! Good luck with your muscat raisin cooking.

                        1. re: gestur

                          HI,
                          Happened to find your conversation while searching for muscat raisins. I need some to use in a favorite receipe my mother-in-law always made - her family called in "Yum-Yum Cake" but it really is more of a bread. Was about to contact the FFF group when I continued to read the discussion. Will now try the Apkarian Family Farm to see if I can get them to do the same for me as they did for you. Thanks for all of your research in locating the muscats.

                          1. re: bariley

                            Hello Bariley:
                            Glad it was of some use. I'll say without any empirical evidence that if you need some muscat flavored raisins before this fall and for a cake, it might be possible to substitute raisins from one of the crosses of the true Muscat of Alexandria grape with some seedless variety to yield a pretty muscat-tasting raisin that does not have seeds. One such cross is called Princess and Apkarian Farm will be having some of those for sale soon, she told me, from last year's crop. I've tasted Princess raisins and they are quite good and remind me of muscat raisins although I wasn't in the habit of eating a lot of muscat raisins raw. Depending on what happens to them in a cake compared to true muscat raisins, you may want to do some simple cuts on the Princess raisins to simulate the slit skins of muscat raisins from their deseeding. But again, I have no empirical support for this opinion so take it for what it is worth.

                            Buona fortuna!

                            1. re: gestur

                              A final update from Gestur. I’m very happy to report that I received my shipment of Muscat of Alexandria raisins from the Apkarian Family Farm recently and they look and taste wonderful. I also received a note from Linda Raphael letting me know that quite a few others from this particular thread on muscat raisins also made an order with her. She anticipated quite a few orders and has already sent out about 250 lbs across the US and Canada, she told me. She may be out of them by this time, however. I, for one, will be making my order to Apkarian Family Farm each summer and I’m glad she’s found so many others interested in getting these wonderful raisins back into circulation. Remember, however, that these Muscat of Alexandria raisins from Apkarian still retain their seeds, and so you will want to de-seed them manually for use in your recipes. Finally, if you aren’t up to the manual de-seeding of the Muscat of Alexandria, you may want to try using Diamond Muscat raisins instead, also available from Apkarian. The Diamond Muscat grape is a cross between seedless varieties and Muscat of Alexandria grapes, and so they are themselves seedless. I’m happy to report that they have really good muscat flavor, at least to my palate. If you do use them, you probably will want to cut their skins roughly for use in your recipes since the old fashioned muscat raisins—called simply ‘seeded’ back then—had their seeds mechanically extracted and that of course caused the skins to be broken. And this broken skin results in their cooking up in way that tends to have the raisin pulp get disbursed and become a background factor, rather than be simply plumped up and whole. Just a head’s up.

                              1. re: gestur

                                I have also received our order of muscat raisins (for raisin bread), but am finding that removing the seeds is a bit more of a chore than I had expected. It is not that removing the seeds is difficult, as that so much of the pulp sticks to the seeds. It seems like all I am left with is the outer raisin skin. Anyone have any suggestions for this?
                                I also want to be sure and thank Apkarian Family Farm for their wonderful customer service!! They are a pleasure to do business with!

                                1. re: mtladell

                                  mtladell, before I wrote my ‘final’ update I decided to slice open a few of the Muscat raisins and extract their seeds, even though I only use them in the late spring with my rhubarb. Having done so I can see what you are describing. I’ve a couple of thoughts on this. First, in the handful or so that I did this with, I realized that one needs to kind of slide or scrape the knife along and over the seeds and do so in a way that doesn’t bring so much of the raisin pulp along with it. Second, as I recall from my many purchases of muscat raisins both as boxes in the early days from my corner grocery and latterly from the Sun Maid e-store, the raisins came in one big clump of raisin pulp. It was really hard to see the individual raisins amidst this agglomeration. This latter point led me to the idea—that I stored away for next spring—that I would simply de-seed these muscat raisins as best I could and *then* weigh out the one pound I needed. This could be done with a recipe that calls for volume too, I’m guessing. Let me reiterate that, worst case scenario, those seedless Diamond Muscats have great muscat flavor. I had a handful today, so I know whereof I speak—and I also speak from having drunk a lot of muscat wines, which I love, both French and Italian. So there you have it, rabbit.

                                  1. re: gestur

                                    Hi, gestur:

                                    I'm late to this thread, but perhaps folks who can't find muscat raisins should consider re-hydrating regular golden raisins in moscato, and then redrying them. I've had good success doing this with rum. The Yellowtail Moscato on the shelves right now is quite good--the Wine Advocate has it at 90 points.

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      Ciao Kaleo:

                                      While I’ve not tried your suggestion, what I did do last spring—desperate as I was and only having some muscat raisins that I’d purchased a whole year before and so by then quite dehydrated—was to soak those pretty dry muscats in some Moscato Giallo, a wine made from another, related muscat raisin in northeastern Italy. This produced a pretty interesting flavor combination, I must say. For my purposes—making a rhubarb marmalade—I think that if you do use seedless raisins, either a muscat cross or your suggestion, you probably will want to cut the skins roughly to approximate the effect that the de-seeding of the old ‘seedless’ raisins had in your recipe.

                                      1. re: gestur

                                        Ciao Gestur-

                                        I have been reading here about the muscat raisin dilemma. My mother made a lovely polenta cake for my son's birthday and needed the muscat raisins. She was not able to find them in the Fairway here, which has just about everything. I am interested to know what the labor was like and how long it took for seeding the raisins you got from CA.

                                        Ciaoooo
                                        Giulietta

                                        1. re: Giulietta4711

                                          Cara Giulietta:

                                          Allora, I’ve only given it a small test since I only use these uvetta di moscato in the late spring when I make my marmellata di rabarbaro (no, la ricetta non è italiana). But in order to respond to a previous poster’s question with some experience behind me, I tried taking out the seeds of a few. As that earlier poster here noted, it’s a bit of a messy operation, purtroppo. My recipe calls for one lb. of them and so when I come to de-seed them, I’ll just keep going until I reach 1 lb. of raisin pulp or I empty the bottle of Moscato Giallo (Goldmuskateller), whichever comes first. Also as I noted, some of the raisins made from genetic crosses of the muscat of Alexandria grape with various seedless grapes—to produce a seedless muscat-like raisin—have good, quite high muscat flavor-notes. At least the Diamond Muscat raisins I got from Apkarian Farms do. Maybe you know this, but the quality and strength of the muscat flavor in muscat raisins can be pretty sensitive to when they are harvested. They get the most muscat flavor when harvested quite late in their growth cycle, I’ve read. Again, if you use one of the seedless muscat-like raisins, I’d coarsely chop them to achieve the same cooking qualities obtained when using true muscat raisins. In my marmalade, I once tried using seedless raisins without chopping or cutting them and they just plumped up in the cooking, not a result I wanted at all.

                                          Zio Valentino, aka Gestur

                                          P.S. While I’m nobody’s Nonna, I myself make a lovely Torta di Farina Gialla, from Matt Kramer’s “A Passion for Piedmont” cookbook. Questa ricetta è piemontese, ma certo, e fatta con la scorza grattata di limone. Ahhh, squisita, squisita!!

                                          P.P.S. Ascolta Giulietta, ho comprato 4.5 chili di uvetta di moscato dal CA! Troppo, troppo per me, ma certo. [Beh, non è stato il mio errore.] Così, se vuole un mezzo chilo o un chilo di uvetta di moscato (con i semi), me manda per email (david064@umn.edu), va bene? Lei manderò la sua uvetta di moscato per fare una Torta di Farina Gialla alla Nonna! Un regalo semplice.

                            2. re: bariley

                              Hi Bariley,

                              Our family also makes the "Yum-Yum Cake". It has been in our family for at least four generations and we never knew who named it; always assumed it was some child's reaction to tasting it! We have always considered it one of the best snacking cakes ever. I'd love to compare notes with you about the recipe and experiences.

            2. I know it's no use, but I can buy them "one the vine" at a local deli of mine, but I'm in Australia. But if you really are desperate I'd be more than happy to help you out...and I just noticed the date of the OP LOL Ah well, it's the thought that counts, right?

              1 Reply
              1. re: TheHuntress

                Cara Cacciatrice:

                Thanks for the post. Yes I was aware that the muscat grapes are grown in Oz. And even more enticing for me, in Sicilia where the muscat of Alexandria grape is called Zibibbo.

                Nobody’s Nonna

              2. I've read all through the thread in my hunt for a muscat source and thought I'd share this, too, while I'm looking: SunMaid no longer sell them but offers this advice for recipes that need them.

                Q:My recipe calls for Muscat raisins but I can’t find Muscats at the store. How do I adjust the recipe?
                A: Measure natural raisins for the recipe at an amount equal to the Muscat raisins. Add molasses or honey to the natural raisins at half that amount, i.e. for 1 cup of raisins use ½ cup molasses or honey. Place mixture in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 20 to 40 seconds. Set this aside and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the excess liquid by draining the raisins through a sieve. Use the raisins as specified in the standard Muscat recipe as a replacement for the Muscat raisins.

                1. Hey Zio Valentino, aka Gestur!

                  I finally got my muscat raisins this week from Apkarian Farms in Reedley, CA. (I had first read your conversation way back in March when I was visiting my cousin in CA and that's when I contacted Apkarian.
                  Anyway, I have just made some Venetian Polenta Cake from Marcella Hazan's recipe, this time with my lovely muscat raisins. Can't wait to taste it.
                  However, I was a bit nonplussed to discover how onerous seeding the things was! I have to make 3 more of these for Christmas gifts but don't want to be spending hours slicing into sticky raisins with a sharp knife and prying the little buggers out. Do you or does anyone else out there have a better more efficient method? I was tempted to put them in the food mill but that destroys the raisin shape and turns 'em into mush.
                  Help.
                  Giulietta's Mama

                  PS Giulietta doesn't know it yet, but I'm giving her a bag of my precious muscats for Christmas to play with.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: giuliettasmamma

                    Cara la Mamma di Giulietta:

                    Alas, I have no secret, easy way to remove the seeds from the raisins. I found it to be, well, beyond tedious, by which I mean it took me 3 hours to de-seed one pound of these raisins. And that's actual work time, not elapsed time. [I had to take numerous breaks to keep the muscles in my wrists and arms from cramping up.] And I take a certain pride in my ingenuity at getting things like this down to the easiest possible way. I've concluded that there was a very good reason some guy way back when (probably an Italian immigrant) invented those simple hand-cranked machines that de-seeded these very tasty muscat of Alexandria raisins. It used to be so easy: one walked to the corner store and bought one of those blue, metallic boxes of Sun Maid's Seeded Raisins and that was that. You got to go home and begin making whatever it was called for these raisins.

                    I thought for a while I had a source from, get this, Sicilia, via Gustiamo's in NYC. Alas that did not happen and I suspect that these Zibibbo raisins also had their seeds intact. So the very real question is: How did all those old Italian women go about making these dishes with these Muscat of Alexandria raisins? Did they have to manually de-seed them too? How much more love was involved in making these dishes if they did, no?

                    Mi dispiace, ma non conosco un modo semplice.

                    Ma, Buon Natale Signora e Buon Natale a Giulietta!

                    Il tuo Valentino

                  2. Alas. I guess I'll continue to slit and pry out the things. I bet if my nonno Tobia were still around (he'd be well over 130 years old by now..) he'd have invented something. I'm sure in the Old Country they had gizmos for this sort of chore. Maybe I should ask my cousins in Vicenza.

                    Thanks for your fast reply.
                    Ciao!