Grappling with Grapes

French wine harvest 2017 set for ‘historic low’ after frost, Italy faces ‘one of smallest wine harvests for 60 years’, Frost: Obstbauern und Winzer zittern um Ernte. The weather hasn’t been kind to European winemakers. Frost, hail, drought, heatwaves, you name it, they were visited by it. A major drop in production seems inevitable. Still, if you ask about this year’s harvest in France, for example, it is said to be weeks early due to a hot summer, and of promising quality. (Of course it is. Wouldn’t you say so too?)
I could turn this posting into a harrowing tale on climate change, but I’m not in the mood. I’d rather share with you my own harvest report.
The weather hasn’t been kind to me, either. Frost has damaged two thirds of the crops; yields, however, exceeded expectations. The one vine that was not affected (a Boskoop Glory), produced three topped colanders with healthy looking bunches, an increase of roughly 80%. The harvest was early (first half of September) and of excellent quality (of course).

For a non-winemaking household of two that’s a lot of grapes. Spouse had pondered on making verjuice but somehow we forgot it is made from unripe grapes. Not to worry. We found out that fresh grape juice is delicious, but quite a bit of work to make (destemming by hand; 1 kg makes about 450 ml). Making grape jelly is hardly more work. Stephanie Alexander’s suggestion to add grapes to an olive bread, proved to be a revelation. Here is her recipe (slightly changed):

600 g flour (preferably unbleached, organic and stone-milled); 20 g fresh yeast; 150 g stoned black olives or Calamatas, roughly chopped; 1,5 teaspoon salt (less if olives are salty); 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, olive oil; 300 ml warm water; two handfuls lightly crushed grapes; sea salt
Mix flour, salt, olives and rosemary in a bowl. Dissolve yeast in half of the water. Make a well in the flour, tip in oil, yeast and rest of the water. Knead with hands or in mixer until dough is elastic. Place in lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film or clean towel. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes (it should double in size), then spread dough gently onto large baking tray covered with baking paper. Press down (don’t knock back), push grapes into dough and allow to recover (10-15 minutes). Drizzle with olive oil, scatter some sea salt on top. Bake for about 25 minutes at 240 °C.
Eat with a green salad, a little (white) cheese, some charcuterie.
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