We have interrupted this (more or less) regularly scheduled blog to bring you one of the tantalizing fragrances of late summer in New England–wild concord grapes.
I do wish I could do more than say it–that there were some digital way to do scratch and sniff*. My attempts at vivid description and even pictures can’t bring it to you if it’s not a smell you know. But if a warm September day has ever found you out walking where those determined vines tangle up with tree branches and undergrowth, I hope the memory and the reminder might manage to bring it back.
For years we’ve seen wild grapevines growing out in what we once called the east meadow (before it became a thicket), but I think this might be the first year we’ve managed to do more than marvel at how the scent of the grapes carries, and actually get some into the pantry in any quantity.
It was not as simple as I anticipated. A friend who moved left us with her electric juicer, and I pictured a straightforward process of grapes going in at the top, and heavenly purple sunshine cascading into our waiting cups on the other end. Instead, above the substantial noise of the motor there was an impressive racket, all those grape seeds sounding a little like the artillery fire from an old war movie, as the container intended for the compost filled almost instantly. A large drop of purple liquid peeked out at the spout, but there wasn’t enough for it to drop into the waiting bowl. We scratched our heads a bit.
I have not made a careful study of electric juicers, but it’s possible that there’s a reason my friend elected not to move this one with her across country. It appears to work as it was designed to, but that may be where the problem lies. El Guapo’s theories about the design of a more effective juicer might have future application, but as this is the juicer we’ve got for now, we improvised. He took it outside and let it run without the “pusher” installed so that all those little grape seed BBs could go flying out the top. Once they were out of the way, I ran the prematurely rejected pulp through four or five more times, until we had quite a lot of–well, the word that comes to mind is sludge, but that probably gives you the wrong idea. It was quite thick, a glorious color. And the fragrance was swoon-worthy.
I had envisioned us drinking the fruits of our efforts, but it was now clear that we ought to rethink. When we did, our thoughts turned to jam, and that turned out to be an inspiration.
It’s not only the grapes that have caused this long gap since my last post. It’s peach season, and we have one of the area’s last orchards not half a mile up the road. I’ve been canning peaches, drying peaches, eating (so many!) peaches, and cobblering peaches (with blueberries). As I stirred the kettle of wine purple soon-to-be jam, I decided some of those peaches ought to make their way into the mix.
Soon enough we will have gotten through our last bushel of peaches, the grapes will be gone for another year, and I’ll get back to writing more often. That is, until the apples overwhelm us, and it’s time to think about apple butter….
Are there smells or tastes that say “End of Summer” to you?
*While you never know what someone somewhere might have invented by this time, if digital smell delivery exists, I don’t think it’s a thing accessible to the likes of me. I did begin to wonder about related inventions, and learned that innovations in delivering smells include Smell-O-Vision, a system for releasing smells during scenes in a movie. The invention was used just once, for the 1960 film Scent of Mystery. It appears not to have taken the industry by storm.