Concord grape is the flavor of American childhood–the flavor of grape jelly and grape juice. First bred in Massachusetts, in 1849, Concord grapes gained a huge commercial boost when they were used for the first commercial grape juice–intended as a non-alcoholic substitute for communion wine. Before I moved to New York, I’d never had an actual Concord grape, but tasting one is an uncanny thing- it’s less like a grape and more like a grape Jolly Rancher.
Because they’re seeded, you rarely see Concord grapes at the store. But if you live in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest or Great Lakes region, you can probably find them at the farmer’s market this time of year. They’re excellent roasted and thrown into a salad, but we look forward to this time of year for Concord grape ice cream. It’s like some forgotten treat from your school days.
Homemade Concord Grape Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup concord grapes, cut in half with seeds removed
4 egg yolks
a big pinch of salt
zest of one lime
To meld the flavor of the skins and flesh, roast the grapes a bit. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While you are waiting rinse and de-seed the grapes. Using a sharp knife it should take 15-25 minutes. Put the grape halves in a gratin dish or cake pan, and roast for 8 minutes or even less, until the juices are bubbling out of the grapes.
Meanwhile, combine the cream, milk, honey, salt, and half the sugar in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. Put the yolks in a heat proof bowl and whisk in the other half of the sugar and the zest. When the cream mixture is starting to steam, whisk a cup or so, 1/4 cup at a time, into the eggs. The goal is the raise the heat of the eggs so they won’t curdle when added to cream. When the eggs are tempered, add them to the cream and, stirring constantly, cook the mixture over low heat for five minutes until it has thickened to a thin custard. Then whisk in the grapes and all of their juices.
Pour into a large bowl and chill for a long time—4 hours at least. If you’d like to speed the process set the bowl over an ice bath and stir. Then process according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions, remove from ice cream maker and freeze for as long as you can. Three hours is ideal.