Spotlight America’s native fruits this Thanksgiving

November 1, 2018 0 By mlucas

Here’s a bit of information I only just found out, and maybe you didn’t know it, either. The grape is a berry. It is a berry that grows in clusters on a vine and the Concord variety of this berry is native to America.

As is the blueberry and the cranberry. Berries gathered in the wild were important food sources for native tribes and were among the first plants cultivated by the colonists.

In a nod to their contribution to American history, here are three recipes spotlighting the country’s most popular native berries, all of which are wrapping up their harvest season right about now, from East to West. You can still get some local fresh grapes and cranberries, and fresh blueberries from warmer parts of the country.

The blueberries are the star of a tasty salad perfect for a feast. It also includes walnuts, another food important to early residents of North America.

Everybody knows cranberries are for turkey dinners but combine them with blueberries, walnuts, and other late-harvest fruits and you have a whole new way to enjoy the sweet-tart taste of the little red berry in a Thanksgiving pie.

It is easy to include Concord grapes in your holiday meal, just ask any winemaker. John Basile, wine-master at Monroeville Winery, located a mile or so east of South Harrison Township, said area wineries are likely to grow Concord grapes and use the strong-flavored fruit to blend wines of other grape varieties. Concords are not usually an eating variety, Basile said, but the heady ‘grapey’ flavor and aroma are why the grapes are used for jam, jelly and juice.

Ask your local winery or liquor store for a Concord wine or Concord blend wine and serve it with dinner. Purple grape juice for the kids and non-drinkers will also honor the native grape. Besides the colonial nod of a Concord grape wine, grab a bottle of grape juice from the market and use it in a delightful, unexpected treat, the grape pudding. This is a recipe that could easily have been common in early America once nights were cold enough to “set” the pudding in the root cellar.

Hope your Thanksgiving is a “berry” wonderful one.

FALL FRUIT THANKSGIVING PIE

A great way to use last of the season fresh fruit

1 pie crust, premade or store-bought

2 C fresh or frozen cranberries

1 C fresh or frozen blueberries

1 C fresh or frozen peeled, pitted peaches, cut into medium (about 1”) slices

2 tsp fresh lemon juice or 1 tsp concentrate

½ C sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

dash nutmeg

2 Tbls cornstarch

Crumble Topping

½ C margarine or butter, softened

1 C packed brown sugar

1 C flour

1 C rolled oats

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

¾ C chopped walnuts

In a medium bowl, combine the butter or margarine, brown sugar, flour, rolled oats, cinnamon and walnuts. Use a pastry blender to mix until topping is the consistency of coarse meal. Set aside.

Glaze

1 egg

1 Tbls milk

Whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl; set aside.

To assemble the pie:

Pre-heat oven to 450 F degrees. Drape pastry crust over a 10-inch pie plate and trim the edges; set aside excess dough. Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers. Refrigerate the pie plate for about 30 minutes while making the fruit filling.

In a large bowl, combine fruit and lemon juice and set aside. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch. Add to fruit mixture stirring in well.

Spoon the fruit filling into the pie shell. Sprinkle the topping evenly over fruit. Lastly, apply the glaze with a pastry brush to edges and other visible pastry dough.

Bake on the center rack of oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F and continue baking for 30 to 40 more minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the crumb topping is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serve at room temperature or still warm, topped with ice cream or whipped topping. Makes about 8 servings.

Note: Consider substituting sweet red apples for the peaches, sliced more thinly (about 1/2”) so they’ll soften properly during baking. Or, use both peaches and apples by reducing the amount of cranberries and blueberries by 1/2 cup and add 1 cup of apple slices to the original recipe.

CONCORD GRAPE PUDDING

Grape will be your new favorite flavor for Thanksgiving

six to eight 5-ounce ramekins

1/4 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C extra-fine or finely ground cornmeal

Small pinch fine sea salt, plus more for garnish

1 qt. pure Concord grape juice

1/4 C honey, for garnish

1/2 C skinned, chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, or other tree nuts, for garnish

Make Ahead: The puddings need several hours, possibly an overnight, to set and chill in the refrigerator. They can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Cover once fully cooled. This recipe is adapted from a 2014 article in The Washington Post.

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, salt and grape juice in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for one minute then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook about 20 minutes longer, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced by about one-third and you can no longer taste the flour. Divide the mixture among individual ramekins. Place them in the refrigerator to chill and set for several hours or up to overnight. They will have a consistency much like chocolate pudding.

Preheat a toaster oven or oven to 300 degrees. Line a small baking pan with parchment paper. Place the honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. It will look sudsy. Stir in the nuts, mixing until evenly coated, then remove them from the heat after 30 seconds. Spread the nuts in the baking pan and sprinkle lightly with salt; bake for 10 minutes, then transfer the nuts to a wooden cutting board to cool, turning them over after 2 or 3 minutes and breaking apart any large chunks.

Serve the chilled puddings in their ramekins, or turn them out onto individual plates. Garnish with the honeyed hazelnuts and a sprinkling of salt.

BLUEBERRY FIELD SALAD

Easy to make, this is a crowd-pleaser

1 C chopped walnuts

1/2 C balsamic vinegar

1/3 C blueberry jam or preserves

1/3 C olive oil

2 5.5-oz. packages spring greens and baby spinach mix

2 C fresh blueberries

1 small red onion, halved and sliced

1 C crumbled blue cheese

salt and fresh-ground pepper

Heat walnuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Whisk together in a small bowl the balsamic vinegar, blueberry jam/preserves, and olive oil. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a large salad bowl, combine walnuts, spinach mix, blueberries, onion and blue cheese. Toss to mix. Drizzle with desired amount of vinaigrette, and toss again to coat. Serve immediately with remaining vinaigrette. Or serve tossed salad and blueberry vinaigrette separately. Makes about 8 side salads.

— By Jean Redstone