grapes

big’s the new small

Homemade Verjuice

With all good intentions to be back in blog-land on a regular basis, life got a bit too big over the last month. And mostly because it kept reminding me it doesn’t go on forever. That’s the big bit, the rest I can handle. I’ve said goodbye to some truly beautiful souls this month, and been cheerleading for others who are going through serious illnesses, and in all the moments that my stomach has been flipped with raw emotion, and all the analysing of what could or couldn’t be, the very simplest notion has surfaced, slowly but surely; whether a soul is physically with you or not, you have the choice to keep loving them. So each time my hands dropped from covering my face and slid into place over my heart, I tried to just keep loving.  It didn’t always work, but when you strip everything back, what else is there to do? The sadness is just another way love wraps itself up. The silver lining concept doesn’t always sit well when you’re in the thick of things though, more than happy to be the first to acknowledge that. Silver seems to be the chosen colour of our elusive buddy, perspective.

That hit home in all sorts of ways over the last month too. Not least in what was happening in the garden with the crazy weather we had going on – extreme heat followed by torrential rain for 3 days straight. I was so relieved for all of our animals and the land itself, that I forgot to be upset by what it did to the bounty of grapes we had almost ready for picking on our few vines. When you are surrounded by vignerons though, it doesn’t take long to be reminded as to what that kind of weather can do to an entire year’s worth of work prior to harvest. Agriculture’s a tricky game to play if you try to force your hand. I’ve been working with Maggie Beer for the last 9 or so years and she’s such a great ‘silver lining hunter’, which is why verjuice was the first thing that came to mind when I saw all of our unripe grapes had split. It’s exactly how things happened for Maggie all those years ago too – provenance or perspective, whichever name you give it, rolling with the punches seems to be the best way to honour the ‘bigness’ of it all.  Little things never stay small for long when you remember to leave a seat spare for perspective. I’m so grateful for that. And for intuitive grape stealing puppies who jump into your life just when you need them the most. Little Wolfie had no problem finding the positive in a basket of just picked grapes, ripe or not. God, it made me laugh to watch him.

So, verjuice. You may have come here for a recipe after all! This is exactly how Maggie suggested making verjuice to me, without going through the stabilising process she needs to. This is truly the homemade option, and super simple. You’ll just need unripe green grapes, a juicer and some ice cube trays. And then whenever the mood for risotto, pasta, quinoa, soup, salad dressings, or fancy roasted veggies should strike, you just pop a couple of ice cubes from the freezer and you’ll be banging on about verjuice like you were Maggie herself! It’s really good stuff.

 

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Homemade Verjuice

As many organic unripe green grapes as provenance will muster

Just juice the grapes and pour into ice cube trays to keep frozen for when you need verjuice in any recipe. The freezing process simply halts any fermentation of the grape juice, keeping that wonderful bite to the verjuice. Use it wherever you would use lemon juice or white wine in a recipe. I love drinking it with sparkling mineral water too.

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grape giving

Schiacciata

Shopping in supermarkets made me forget how precious food is for a while there. Growing our own food again was the best reminder. Planting something, caring for it, saving it from earwigs and rogue free range chickens, and finally harvesting it, put me firmly back into the loop of appreciating just what plants do for us. It seems a deal that’s pretty much skewed in our favour too; a little water, some horse poo and a place in the sun is exchanged for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Which brings me to the fact we’ve been eating grapes for three meals a day of late. This is the first year our vines have said ok, fair’s fair, you’ve loved us from our infancy across the last 5 years, and now here’s enough food to see you through Summer. It’s a beautiful thing. I feel like I’m in an advert for local tourism when I walk away from the row of vines with handfuls of grapes wrapped in the makeshift bucket of my t-shirt. The dialogue of thanks between me and the vine while I’m picking, is not something I can imagine getting away with in the fruit and veg section of a supermarket.

So, fresh grape juice and grapes in smoothies and bowls of fresh grapes make for easy breakfast options, then lunchtime salads of grapes and cashew cheese, walnuts and greens are a winner, but dinner can get a bit trickier. Enter schiacciata. Never has ‘squashed’ bread been so good.

We used a sneak of sourdough from our mix of baking for the Farmer’s Market for the base, but you can easily use any favourite pizza dough recipe, or even make things a bit gnarlier with some wholegrain additions. The thickness of the base can be anywhere from a focaccia size to a flat bread but because I cooked this in our sandwich grill and couldn’t get anything too thick in there, I went with more of a traditional pizza base thickness.

As a quick side note, a couple of very clever friends put the hemp food cover you can see over the dough, in my hands this week and I have to share the joy of no more plastic cling film. Hemp, beeswax, tree resin and organic cotton. Washable and reusable. How cool is that? Check out Abeego if you want more info. Ok, community service announcement over!

 

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Schiacciata

 

1 generous bunch organic red seedless grapes

fresh organic rosemary

Himalayan salt

Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Organic pizza dough

Extra flour for rolling

 

 

After you have made your base and let it go through its rising time, roll it out into 2 pizza bases on a floured board.

Place onto the grill, or onto a pizza stone if you are planning on cooking it in the oven, and press the grapes into the dough, along with the fresh rosemary sprigs.

Cook to your liking and serve seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

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