While I was at my dad’s this weekend, I did a little foraging before I left on Sunday. I scoped out some sassafrass seedlings I might try to transplant into my sideyard later this fall (or dig the roots of for some homemade rootbeer…) But most obvious right now were the grape vines bordering between the grass and the woods. Before my parents built the house, my dad’s land was almost all vineyard, in Northeast Ohios’ Grand River Valley. Over the decades, a lot of those grape vines have gone feral, and still are producing pretty good tasting grapes on their own. The vines are probably a re-wilded Concord-type.
Of course, right now, the fruit isn’t anywhere near ripe, but there’s still a lot you can do with the plant. If you’ve never made stuffed grape leaves with fresh leaves – you’re really missing out! The brined, canned leaves are pretty foul and delicate things – but fresh ones make a big difference!

Fresh grape leaves, from my dad's backyard.

 Janna is a big fan of stuffed grape leaves, and the recipe I used was pretty close to the savory/sweet dolmades she loves from Columbus’ Cafe Shish Kebab. The only changes from the recipe were that I used almonds rather than pine nuts, and I added lemon juice-marinated onions on top while baking. 

The finished stuffed grape leaves (which turned out fantastic!)

 Next, even though the grapes weren’t close to ripe yet, they were getting to be close to full sized. On some vines, therer were so many clusters of grapes that, had this been a vineyard, some would have been thinned out. So, with that in mind, I picked some bunches, and thought I’d take a stab at verjuice, which how people would have gotten use out of unripe grapes. Verjuice is just the juice of unripe grapes – and it was commonly used in the olden days as a substitute for lemon juice, in climates where lemons couldn’t grow. It has a sour flavor that’s less intense and a little more floral than vinegar. 

About a pound and a half of wild grapes.

 Making verjuice couldn’t be easier. I stemmed the grapes, threw them in a blender, and pushed the pulp through a sieve. I tried to filter it through coffee filters, but it took forever to percolate through – so I just poured half into a Mason jar to use from the fridge, and the other half went into the freezer in smaller containers. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use it, but I’ve read it’s nice in salad dressings. I’d imagine it would be nice in a seafood marinade too.

The finished verjuice - kind of an upapetizing shade of green, but it has an appealing sweet/sour/bitter flavor.

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