Die grapes, die!


There was a time when I worried about the grapevine. When black rot blighted the berries and chewed away at the leaves.

Ah, those were the good old days.

Last year we tended to the vines in our typical fashion: we ignored them. We didn’t clip them, water them or tie them up. We just let them grow au-naturale. And they propagated…

…Which just goes to show that any idiot can grow grapes.

But last summer the grapes became stunted when they should have been plump and ready to pick. Around July, dark smudges pocked the stems and half the fruit shriveled on the vine.

I didn’t know what was going on, so I clipped a few sickly stems and took them to the local vineyard for an autopsy.

When I arrived, the vintner sized me up like a leprosy patient. He stood a few feet away. “First of all, that’s black rot,” he said gesturing at my fist of green. “Second of all it’s spreads like crazy, so get it the hell out of here.”

At home I reported back to Martin, who doused the plants in a bath of pesticide (so much for organic farming). The vines coughed, gasped, and doubled over.

But this year the plants are invigorated. They’re black-rot free and we’ve got a bumper crop of grapes. Which begs the question: what do we do with all this fruit?

Google “grape recipes” and you’ll find chicken-grape salad; pork chops in grape sauce; filet of sole with grapes (really, grapes with fish?)…But these recipes call for 1 cup of grapes. I need a recipe that uses them by the pound.

And that’s when it dawned on me: Grape jelly. It’s a no brainer. I’d make shelves of it and give it away at Christmas. Just like Martha Stewart!

Back to google I went, where I found “how to make grape jelly in 12 easy steps!” In addition to fruit, all I needed was a jar funnel, a jar grabber, a jelly strainer, a canner, a food processor, some pectin, and a dozen jars, rings and lids.

And $75 and six hours later I’d have 12 jars of homemade grape jelly, which would get shoved into the furthest reaches of our friends’ cupboards.

That’s assuming I properly sterilized my canning supplies. Otherwise, it’d be: “Merry Christmas, have a jar of home-grown botulism.”

So I’m going to spare myself the trouble and disease and ditch my canning plans. Instead, we’ll eat what we can and give the rest to unsuspecting friends and neighbors. And next year we’ll cut back the vine. Or bring back the black rot.