Sour Grapes… OR …making the best of Concord Grapes

Not Far From the Treesummary: green apples; concord grapes are awfully sweet; how much concentrate about 8 lbs of grapes makes; not making jelly; grape onion focaccia; information about Not Far From the Tree; (click on images to see more photos)

apples and grapes There are so many volunteers for Not Far From the Tree now that it isn’t entirely easy to get in on a pick. So when I saw the opportunity to pick green apples AND two kinds of grapes (green and blue), I jumped at it.

I was excited about getting to pick apples. But when I learned that the grapes were concords, I was a little less excited. I’ve never been a fan of concord grapes. They’re so sweet. I’m especially not a fan of concord grape jelly or juice. To me, they both taste a bit like kool-aidy medicine.

Still, the bounty was huge. This despicably hot and rainless (until now) summer was pretty terrible for apricots and plums here in Toronto, but it has been quite good for apples and brilliant for grapes. So we happily picked little green apples (no idea what kind but they are a sweet/tart and not terribly juicy – probably ideal for making cider) in the front yard and masses and masses of grapes in the back yard.

And when we had finished picking, cleaning up the yard, and the fruit for the owners and the charity was set aside, we learned that we were each entitled to take 3lbs of apples and 18lbs (that’s right, eighteen pounds) of grapes. I couldn’t possibly fit that much onto my bike! So I took about half the amount allotted to me. The others did the same and our fearless (mostly) leader said, “I sure hope that the kitchen will take these grapes too…”.

NFFtT concord grapes When I got home, T blanched when he saw three baskets of grapes. He especially blanched when he learned that they were concords. And he likes sweet grapes….

Keeping a couple of bunches of grapes back, we decided to turn the rest of them into juice. With the first few grapes, we used the juicer to juice them directly. The resulting juice was quite fresh and nice but it seemed awfully labour-intensive, not to mention that if we juiced all of the uncooked grapes that way, we would have nowhere to store the juice without it going off. (Our freezer is very small.)

So, we threw most of them into a big pot and brought it slowly to a boil and dumped it all into an old cotton pillow case to hang over night. T decreed that we’d decide what to do with the resulting juice the next day. (We thought maybe we’d make jelly.)
The next morning we were flabbergasted to see just how much juice had been produced. It was tons. It was sweet. And that’s without any sugar added! That nixed the jelly idea.

concord grapes T decided to reduce the juice into a concentrate for easier storage. Ha! Easy indeed. The resulting concentrate fit into a 250ml jar! With zero added sugar.

We tried adding water to make unsweetened juice out of the concentrate – ewwww too sweet, too concord grapey…. So we used some of the concentrate to make a marinade for fabulous barbecued pork shoulder that night.

NFFtT grape focaccia And I made focaccia to go with it. Sure, halving each grape and popping the seed(s) out was a little labour intensive but there is something sort of pleasing and zen-like about it. And then there is the payoff.

Adding concord grapes as the topping makes brilliant focaccia!

The pork shoulder was fabulous. But it was the focaccia that really shone. The grapes’ almost overpowering sweetness subsided and the residual tartness of them really shone through.

grape focaccia

Who knew that concord grapes could taste so good?!

Thank goodness we still have two branches of grapes left. We neeeeeeed to have grape focaccia again soon.

grape focaccia

Not Far From the Tree Not Far From the Tree

“Not Far From the Tree” is a Toronto organization that includes a residential fruit-picking program to pick fruit (with permission, of course) that would otherwise go to waste.

There are lots and lots of fruit trees and vines in Toronto!! Bearing fruit that is eaten by birds, squirrels and raccoons. If you have such a thing in your garden and would like the animals to share the fruit with people, please do contact “Not Far From the Tree”. They will send a team of pickers to clean up your yard of fallen fruit and pick the good fruit that is still in the tree. The harvested fruit is divided evenly into 3 portions: one third going to the tree owners, one third going to the volunteer pickers and the final third going to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.

For more information about NFFtT and how you can donate your time and/or share your fruit, please go to


cool morning shadows from the sun shining through the screen door


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2 responses to “Sour Grapes… OR …making the best of Concord Grapes

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      I too immediately conjure up the taste of Welch’s. But the fresh juice we made from a few of the grapes didn’t taste even remotely like that horror. It was fresh and grapey in a good way. But it was exceedingly sweet. It was so sweet that we knew we couldn’t make jelly with it. (Who would eat anything so sweet??)

      But using these grapes in savoury dishes is the answer! They lose their Concordy ubersweet flavour and the result is a sweet/tart loveliness. We used the last of the little bunch of grapes last night to make a grape focaccia to go with pork stew made with grape juice, wine and grapes. Dinner was stellar. (Photos are still in the camera)


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