When I am on a food discovery mission I enjoy having a reason to wander through my cookbooks. This week as I looked for recipes using fresh muscadines I learned they rarely make the cookbook cut. In her 1986 cookbook New Southern Cooking, regional cooking icon Nathalie Dupree mentions a variety of muscadines called scuppernongs as being named for a river in NC. Her recipe for Grilled Duck with Muscadine Sauce is made with muscadine preserves. There is no actual recipe for the preserves.In her 2009 cookbook Atlanta Desserts – Recipes from Favorite Restaurants, Krista Reese mentions muscadines as one of the abundant native fruits early settlers found in the South. A profiled recipe from The Dining Room at Buckhead’s Ritz-Carleton is for Georgia Muscadine Trio; a sorbet, soufflé and coulis all made with muscadines. I could barely find even a mention of muscadines in over a thousand cookbooks, yet this one had a trifecta of recipes in one! If we get a steamy Indian Summer day I’ll make the sorbet but will take a pass on the grape schnapps based soufflé. The Dining Room was Atlanta’s only 5 star restaurant before it closed in 2009. I only ate there once with my sweetie and still remember the gorgeous dining room, the professionally attentive and unpretentious the service, and the impressively perfect food presentation and flavors.I fortuitously found a small but interesting recipe for Grape Catsup from Tullie’s Receipts – Nineteenth Century Plantation Plain Style Southern Cooking and Living. Before tomato ketchup became synonymous with ketchup, any sauce made with vinegar was called ketchup (or catsup?) This cookbook was compiled and edited by the Kitchen Guild of the Tullie Smith House Restoration at the Atlanta Historical Society years before it was renamed the Atlanta History Center in 1990. The book was written in 1976 with a grant from Pepperidge Farm Incorporated. It was approved by the Georgia Bi-Centennial Commission. The recipe is “Courtesy of Miss Fannie White from Milledgeville, Georgia.”The recipe calls for a large quantity of grapes which indicates it is a recipe to preserve local produce. The only native grapes that might have grown in Milledgeville, GA in the 19th century would be muscadines. I am enamored with the authentically local nature of this recipe on so many levels I can hardly contain myself. (It may a bit TMI to share how excited this sort of find makes me). How fitting to find an heirloom recipe right in sync with today’s current food trends of sourcing native ingredients locally and preserving them in novel ways.
To gut check proportions and flavors, I looked to Helen Witty, the queen of condiments, to see what she had to say about ketchup in her timeless 1986 cookbook Fancy Pantry. A concord grape recipe has many of the same flavors found in the 19th century recipe from Tuille’s Reeipts. Classic flavors never seem to go out of style.
I played around only a little with the proportions, flavor and ingredients to keep the integrity of the original source yet make the recipe more contemporary. I added red pepper flakes, ginger and mustard to give the ketchup an additional well rounded kick and replaced some of the white sugar with brown sugar to give it a bit more depth.
MUSCADINE GRAPE KETCHUP RECIPE
5 cups Muscadine grapes cut in half (about 2 pounds) If you do not live where muscadines are sold in the Fall, use other flavorful and available regionally varieties such as Concord, Vanessa, Sugarone or Muscat.
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
In saucepan over medium low heat cook muscadines and water until muscadines are soft and mushy; about 30 minute minutesPlace softened muscadine mixture in fine mesh sieve set over bowl. Using small potato masher or a spoon extract as much liquid out as possible. I use what is called an “avocado masher” which is exactly like a potato masher only smaller.Alternatively, place cooked muscadines in a potato ricer over a sieve to separate pulp from skin. Measure strained juice and add more water if needed to make 1 1/2 cups juice. I made many smaller batches to get the flavors just right, so my picture is of half the amount needed for this recipe.Pour juice back into saucepan and add rest of ingredients
Cook on low heat until sauce thickens; about 20-30 minutes. The time may vary depending on the pectin in the grapes so the mixture needs to be monitored. To test to see if the ketchup is done, place a small spoonful on a plate, let cool slightly and run your finger down the middle of the plate. The ketchup is done if your finger parts the ketchup and it doesn’t run back together.Let ketchup cool and place in refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for months. This ketchup ingredients are not proportioned for canning. The sweet-tart ketchup with a hit of heat is as versatile as your imagination. It seems to be a natural partner for turkey burgers. Wild turkeys eat muscadines which makes them country cousin flavors. Also try using this ketchup for over-the-top meatloaf sandwiches, on a mild creamy cheese with crackers as an appetizer, slathered over roasted or grilled chicken, as an alternative to bbq sauce with ribs, drizzled over roasted sweet potato wedges, or mixed with three parts olive oil to make a lively vinaigrette for your favorite greens.