What’s For Dinner?
Muscadine Fruit Filling
(First star is lowest, fourth star is highest)
SAVING SOUTHERN FOOD
Muscadines and scuppernongs are wild American grapes native to the Southeast. Muscadines are dark purple, almost black, and scuppernongs are golden bronze. According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, these grapes are one of the richest sources of anti-oxidants found in nature, with an anti-oxidant level 40 times higher than any other grape. Though typically eaten out of hand, this reader puts them to more creative use based on recipes he learned from his elders. But don't wait too long to try them. Their short season ends in early October.
The contributor: Kenneth R. Brown, 70, a father of two and grandfather of four, grew up eating scuppernongs and muscadines in Jackson County, near Jefferson. He is a semi-retired lawyer --- he says he now only works five days a week! His attitude is that he would like to "wear out instead of rust." He and his wife, Beth, live in an old farmhouse he restored in Henry County. In fact, he likes muscadines so much he planted vines before he restored his home.
The story: "The Oct. 19, 2006, article, 'Scuppernongs Belong on Dessert Menu, Too' prompts the enclosed recipe, " Kenneth R. Brown wrote us last year. He was referring to an installment of our Southern Recipe Restoration Project series featuring Jasper reader Rebecca McClung White's recollection of her grandmother's Scuppernong Hull Custard Pie (for this and other stories and recipes, see ajc.com /food). Brown sent us several of his own recipes featuring the scuppernong's close cousin, the muscadine, typed on a typewriter under the heading "From Vine to Dine." Included were his instructions for making a versatile filling he prepares and freezes in big batches that "we enjoy year-round."
But because we didn't receive his letter until the season was nearly over, we waited until now to try them ourselves. Of the first one, titled "muscadine pie, " he wrote: "I suppose those who know lots more about food than I do would call it a cobbler, and I think that would be correct. Call it what you may, I call it 'good eatin' ' and there are numerous relatives, friends, fellow church members and a general collection of covered-dish sharers who would agree it's might good eatin'."
It was inspired by his aunt, Ruby Garrett Chapman of Alabama, who made them before she passed away in her mid-90s last April. "She [was] often rewarded for passing this on to me years ago when I [provided] her with pie mix for her year-round enjoyment, " he wrote.
Her recipe, however, had a top and bottom crust. He expressed he was "scared of a rolling pin" and created this recipe with the simple cup of batter.
He also came up with another use for muscadine mix --- in muffins.
Hands on time: 15 minutes Total time: 25 minutes Serves: 6-8
Muscadine Fruit Filling
1 dry quart muscadines
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Place the pulp and seeds in a second saucepan and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the seeds. This can be achieved several ways: Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds individually or place the mixture in a food mill fitted with the medium sieve and process the pulp.
Combine the pulp and cooked hull-water mixture. Add sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until well-combined and the hulls are tender, an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Use immediately or cool to room temperature and freeze in an airtight container up to a year.