Yesterday I saw a plastic container of grapes with a handwritten sign that said "Swamp grapes" so, of course, I bought them. When I got them home I saw the label on the box: Muscadine - The Ultra Health Fruit. They're big, freckled green. I realized I had heard of them before. They're purported to contain a lot of that stuff that makes red wine good for you. Anyway, I washed one, and popped it into my mouth and *tried* to chew. The skin is like leather. Wikipedia agreed with that and suggested nipping a tiny hole in one end, squeezing and sucking the inner flesh out. They do have seeds and the flavor is...interesting, but the process of eating them is fun! I'll share them with my grandchildren and see who can accumulate the biggest pile of deflated skins. Has anyone else seen them?
Hey Pat - where are you? this is long but I hope it helps you and all those who might like this native fruit.
what you have are scuppernongs. Muscadines are related but have dark red skins, some are nearly purple black. They are both native to the southern US - were here when europeans arrived. NC has an entire industry based on them, supported by the NC Dept of AG. I think more than 400 local farms/growers, festivals, recipes. Sweet and dry wines, not intended to taste like more conventional wines. there's lots of info on the interwebs. I prefer muscadines because the color is so amazing.
They are one of the truly local foods in the US southeast, along with sand pears, heirloom legumes (like Sea Island Red peas, brown Benne seeds) and grains (Carolina Gold rice). Thousands of small farms all over the south east had grape vines - always meaning Muscadines or Scups. They are very resistant to disease and pests, as long as they are pruned they produce heavily and make wonderful jelly, jams, pie fillings, homemade wine and SYRUP!! I was full grown before I realized these were the grapes in the arbor produced by my Great Aunt and Uncle in the 1950s and she made a transcendent grape pie. He made wine :->
I make the syrup - it is dead simple. but messy and some work. I do a bushel at a time. Rinse grapes (darker the better) thoroughly, place in large stockpot with purified water just barely to top of grapes, simmer till grapes 'pop' and then about 20 minutes more. Smush grapes with a flat-face potato masher. Allow to fully cool. Smush again. the juice should be dark red/purple. Drain and strain as best you can - a grape press is great but I've done ok w/big food mill. I usually strain more than once - then reduce the liquid until it reaches a semi-thick syrup. Taste for sweetness - I almost never add sugar/honey but YMMV.
I process in jars, store or refrigerate and use all year.
Its like maple syrup in New England - we use it on everything. Pancakes/waffles of course, but as a topping for pound cake, baste pork roast/chicken/Quail/dove. I use it in glazed sweet potato casserole, or on tiny roasted beets or carrots. or over ice cream, or sweet tea. or keep reducing and make intense jelly.
I've christened my favorite drink: dry champagne + muscadine = the Sasanqua ( in honor of the rosy, beautiful, fragrant camellia in my front yard).
Like so many 'heirloom' plants and foods - I'm working to bring these back because they are delicious, tough plants, happy in our humid heat, low maintainence and they are history on the tongue.
I hope we can get these back on more people's menus. I'd love to hear from others - maybe more on the SE board.
Hi Kariin, I'm in Westchester County, NY. I bought the grapes at a Latino market. I've done a lot of reading about them, and your post is very welcome. I don't know if I'll ever see them again in these parts, but it's been so interesting to learn about them. I'm glad to know I was right about actually having Scuppernongs!
They're scuppernongs; say "scupnons" or us southerners will look at you funny.
Suck the innards out, spit out the seeds, then suck the sweet juice out of the hulls.
You can easily make a jelly. Ordinary muscadines make a good jelly with sugar; they're usually mighty tart otherwise.
Muscadines are something we eat here in the south every year; their flavor is delicious. They make good jam BUT you need a lot of them and you have to seed them which is not as easy as seeding other grape varieties. Here, you can find local wine made with them. For the record, they grow like other grapes, on vines.
There are many varieties that are called slip-skin grapes - due to their heritage from Vitis labrusca (European dessert and wine grapes are typically Vitis vinifera). Concord grapes are perhaps the best known. Muscadines are particularly well known in the South, IIRC.