Ode to the Grapevine - Alcyonenews

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Posted March 8, 2019

Ode to the Grapevine

It was Lord Bertrand Russell, a very affable British chap, who commented on the harm education does to the young. Just look how religious indoctrination lasts the full lifespan of people.

This must be understood to include “culinary” education. Look how adults go through life drinking milk and feeding on dairy products up to and past our “best before date”and go into the age bracket that we need a stick or a scooter to move about. Only few escape the milk attraction – I did.  When my mother diverted the milk stream to my sister, I quit the stuff for good and I abstain from it to this day, for the worse, I am told.

But my mum’s cuisine has long lasting effects. I would not deny either other aspects  of my culinary upbringing and especially my childhood summers at the family vineyard. After all, this piece  is about vineyards, large and small down to a single vine, this being  popular with SSI gardeners. Let me remind you that your grape vine gives you more than you bargained for when you planted it. Such as:

Vine tip salad: Vines sprout plenty of long canes, starting the moment the weather lights the green signal. The tips of these canes,  past the already formed-as-they-grow fruit, clipped the size of store sold asparagus tips make a nice green salad with a unique taste.  Blanche them, intact with the baby leaves they carry, in boiling water for 5 - 7 minutes, drain and dress with vinegar and olive oil. For a variation on the theme, you may use butter –  in either choice, they would taste better sprinkled with garlic granules.

Vine Leave Rolls, a.k.a. “Dolmades”: Harvest leaves big but young, before they age and turn dark green. Blanche them to make them pliable  and use like the cabbage in cabbage rolls. You get a better idea of how to do it if you buy “yialanji” dolmades, which is the vagan version of the vine- leaf rolls,  sold in all deli I know of. The stuffing these carry is rice and chopped onion. You can make them too, if you fancy them fresh.

Likely you would like them stuffed with meat, rice, onions and garlic. There are plently of Google-able recipes for Dolmades or for cabbage rolls. The simplest way is to use “sausage meat” from your local butcher – use it as it comes or jazz it up with finely chopped onion. For the best stuffing use your imagination and follow your inclination.

Normally, one cooks dolmades tightly packed in a saucepan held down with a china plate and the pot lid on at low heat, I guess!  Then garnish them with “avgolemono”, the classic Greek egg and lemon cauce. Serve hot with fries.

Grape Jelly: This is good, too. Use the grapes as you would blackberries or an other fruit you would use to make jelly. Grape jelly is a nice variation to the theme.

Mustalevria – Grape juice crepes: A summer deserts. Easy to make on short notice and if you hit it right it can be quite nice, it could even taste lovely, if you are very hungry.

Vinegar, wine, brandy and ouzo: Yes, you can make these too from your vine(s). Start with wine if you like surprises. It may turns out good – be it wine or vinegar. As far as I know, and I do not know much, good wine vinegar is badly failed wine.

You can drink the wine and be merry. You can distill some of your wine and make brandy, which would make you more merry. Legalization of The Weed may open a wide band of options, too.

The skin and stems left after you press the grapes are a stinky eyesore, highly appealing to black flies. Do not compost them – let them ferment, then boil the mash and make Ouzo, like the Greeks do, or Grappa, as the Italians do.  Both require  considerable palate training  to make them pal-a-table .

Stick burn:  About this time of the year, vines need pruning. This results in lots of wood, that is a nuisance in most instances but it has its uses in that it burns hot. The canes cut 16 to 24 inches long make excellent fireplace kindling.

Vine trunks are good firewood and do not need splitting – please consider donating yours to the Legislature if Speaker Placas prevails and the House is left without Clerk James’ prudently procured wood splitter.       

Table Grapes:   This I almost forgot. One can eat grapes raw, of course,  and many varieties are delicious this way. One could dehydrate them and store them for winter fruit and making Christmas baking.

Unfortunately Grapes are popular with wildlife. Challenge yourself in a race against the birds and the bees, the racoons and more to wrangle some grapes for yourself. With that I wish you good luck.

I will close with a suggestion to our “vineyarders” to consider merchandising more than wine from their vineyards. Let’s share the pleasures from the vines.

The list is not exhaustive, but I quit.

Tom V.

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