Niagara Grape Sorbet

First things first: this has been my first post in over a month (thanks to tennis, school, life etc.). Now that I’ve settled into the school-year groove, posts should start appearing much more quickly!

If you’ve been keeping track of seasonal fruits and veg (like at your local farmer’s market), you’ll have noticed that grapes are now in season! (Or, have been for a few weeks now.) Last week at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market, a few stands had baskets of Niagara and Concord grapes. The Niagara variety — commonly used for making white grape juice — is a native of Niagara County, and, due to its poor resilience during shipping, only available close to where it was grown. So, we Buffalonians (along with other areas near the Great Lakes) are lucky to have this varietal every year, noted for it’s intense sweetness and musky smell.

That musky smell is what led to me to make this sorbet. The grapes, sitting on my counter for almost a week, tempted me every time I walked by. Difficult as it is, I managed to eat a bunch before deciding on making a sorbet. The grapes are next to impossible to eat raw (with their seeds and gelatinous interior) so any use of them usually begins with making musk (i.e. grape juice).

Any sorbet starts with basically the same method: releasing juice from the fruit, puréeing, adding sugar, and, in this case, adding a bit of acidity. Wanting to keep the fruit as natural and raw as possible, I only simmered the grapes for about 3-4 minutes, just to allow them to release a bit of juice. I planned on using the fine disk of my food mill to create the grape purée: however, that still let bits of grape skin and unwanted bits in the juice. Straining through a very-fine-mesh sieve left me with perfectly sweet grape nectar.

The grapes are already incredibly sweet as it is, so very little sugar is needed. If anything, the sugar is more needed to keep the finished sorbet scoopable than to add more sugar. Going along with this, I used a bit of white wine instead of a citrus juice to add a bit of acidity and prevent the sorbet from freezing too hardly.

* One hint on getting the right amount of sweetness: taste the sorbet while adding the sugar syrup in increments. It’s easy to add more sugar, but impossible to take it out.

Ingredient List

  • 5-6 Cups of Niagara Grapes
  • 1/2 to 2/3 Cup of Simple Syrup (save leftovers in the fridge for drinks)
  • 1/4 Cup of White Wine
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

For the Niagara Grape Sorbet:

  1. Add the grapes (stems removed) to a medium saucepan and add a few tablespoons of water. Place over medium-high heat until just boiling, then reduce to the lowest heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the grapes have released some juice.
  2. While the grapes are simmering, heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Don’t allow to boil until all of the sugar is dissolved. When dissolved, boil for a minute and then remove from the heat.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup of white wine into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by half.
  4. Pass the grapes through the fine disk of a food mill.
  5. Pass the grape mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a container.
  6. Stir in as much simple syrup as needed (see above *), the reduced wine, and a pinch of mellow salt (not table salt).
  7. Chill overnight or for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator, and then churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions (which should take about 15 minutes). Freeze until firm, or, if you can’t wait, eat right out of the ice cream maker.

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