The grapes were ripe, hanging, full, needing to be picked.
Signor Bruschi let us know that it was time to pick them. We asked if he wanted
any, and he laughed and said no. I knew we had to get them off the vine, but
then what?? I mean, what do you do with about 20 kilos of grapes? These are
‘uva americana’, a sweet table grape very similar to the Concord grape, so wine
was out of the question, we don’t really eat much jam and a cake would use up only
one bunch out of the 20 kilos. I was sitting in the kitchen with my friend
Deborah when we came across a recipe for grape skin flour bread in Richard
Bertinet’s outstanding bread book, “Crust”.
Bertinet had one up on me because someone gifted him with
the already finished grape flour and all I had was an enormous vat of grapes in
need of attention. What good luck! I also had willing friends who actually
agreed to help me squish grape bodies out of their grape skins. There was talk
of repetitive motion disorder, but the grumbling was surprisingly muted and
eventually all the grapes were separated from their skins.
of skins. Fortunately Andrew has a mechanical mind and we came up with a sort
of press motion to squeeze the excess juice out of the skins.
allowed us plenty of time to figure out what to do with the grape bodies. I
bottled the first batch of juice from the grapes that had not been subjected to any
squeezing. That part was easy and the juice is pale pink and very sweet.
Pressing juice out of those roly-poly grape bodies was another adventure and I
still don’t have an answer. I tried the hand food mill, then I tried the food
processor and the grapes absolutely loved the massage in both machines. They
rolled around laughing and gave up not a drop of juice. Thinking I would teach
them a lesson, I froze the semi-pureed grapes, based on the technique where
freezing fruit breaks the cell membranes, releasing juice and flavor. The grapes
were not the least bit bothered by the freezing; they retained all of their
plump roundness and juice. I finally gave up, poured the ecto-plasmic looking
green slurry into a bottle. Andrew actually drank some of it, but none of us
could get the past the slimy texture. I think there is a reason why you don’t
hear much about home squeezed grape juice.
I soon realized
that the nagging song in the back of my head was the theme song from the
Flintstones; playing over and over and over in my head, until it dawned on me that
the house, with the drying grape skins, smelled exactly like the inside of a
Welch’s grape jelly jar. Actually, by now, most of our street smelled like a
grape jelly jar. Do they still make those little jelly jars printed with
pulverize them, and I would have given anything to have my Vita-Mix here to
help me. The food processor did an ok job, but it had to be done in small batches,
sifted, re-processed, and then sifted a few more times. I had entered full obsession mode, and I’m
wondering if it was a side effect of sniffing so much grape skin dust? Grape
skins are said to be full of anti-oxidants, so I figure there isn’t an oxidant alive anywhere in my body. Does anyone know, is that a good or a bad thing??
Finally it was time to mix and knead the bread and I
basically followed Bertinet’s formula, but wound up tweaking it a bit because
it was feeling too dense. I think I may also have had to compensate for the
residual sugar in the skins as Bertinet’s recipe used cabernet sauvignon
grapes, which are nowhere near as sweet as the uva Americana. I opted for a classic roll shape for the
bread, nothing fancy, just an easy to eat, share and store shape.
The color of the dough was a deep, flecked brown and once
baked it took on a slightly more purplish hue, but if you didn’t know better,
you would have thought it was a dark rye bread from the appearance. We sampled our rolls and it was a
unanimous decision…we all loved the bread! It was chewy, flavorful, very
hearty, and tasted fantastic with a hard dry salami. The salty, meaty flavor of
the salami brought out the unique essence of this bread. Of course, it really
made me crave some country style pate to go with the bread, but this being
Umbria, it means I have to make the pate myself. It was about this time, when I
announced a pate making adventure, that my willing and adventurous kitchen
partners all changed the subject. Even when I promised to get the meat from a
butcher and not start with raising and slaughtering, they were still content to
stay with the salami. Weenies!
For those of you less inclined to grow the grapes, and make
your own flour, I did find an online source for the flour, so you can skip
right to the fun part.
And for a complete roundup of delicious bread from World Bread Day: Cicca Qui!
Uva Americana Grape Skin Flour Formula
400g white bread flour, 180g grape skin flour, 50g whole wheat or rye flour, 200g ferment (mother), 5g fresh yeast, 250 g water, 100g dry red wine, 10 g salt
Combine, knead (yes, knead), let rise for about an hour, turn the dough, let it raise again for about 2 hours, form into loaves or bread, let rise for about a half an hour as the oven heats up to around 450F. Bake until done…about 20 minutes.