I have something of a problem when it comes to vintage cookbooks. I can’t walk by a used bookstore or thrift store without stopping in to scan for some interesting new title. Some I buy just for their kitsch factor, but I find that many older cookbooks I pick up haven’t lost their utility to age and have quite a lot to offer, particularly for a girl who’s interesting in reviving the waning art of canning.
One of my favorite volumes is the New York Times Heritage Cookbook. It was originally published in 1972 and was written by long-time NYT food writer Jean Hewitt (she also wrote the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, which was a staple of my childhood). It’s an unembellished book, but it manages to capture the many distinct faces of regional food that were once present in this country (fast food, national grocery brands and TV have homogenized us in so many ways).
I pulled it off the shelf a couple of nights ago, in my search for pickled lime recipes. While it didn’t yield any helpful recipes in that direction, I discovered a very intriguing recipe for something called Grape Catchup (yes, spelled just like that) in the Mountain/Northern Plains section (the book is organized by region of the country). It seemed both easy, calling for nothing more than grapes, apple cider vinegar, sugar and spices, and strangely appealing.
I made it last night, filling the apartment with the pungent smell of hot, fruity vinegar (sounds like the name of a band made up of pickle makers). What came out was a really tangy, sweet/sour condiment that would make a great dipping sauce (I also think it would be amazing on baked chicken or roasted pork – oh god, a pulled pork sandwich with this instead of bbq sauce would be amazing). It has sort of a runny consistency, as the recipe doesn’t call for any pectin or thickener beyond the grape skins (which do contain some natural pectins).
Being that I now have four pints of this grape catchup in seven separate jars, I’m giving away two half-pint jars to a couple of lucky readers. If you want to try this tasty condiment that you absolutely won’t be able to find on your grocery store shelves, leave a comment by Sunday at 5 pm. And, if you want to make a batch yourself, the recipe is after the jump.
- 6 cups of red grapes (I used conventional, seedless grapes to make this recipe. However, it did originally call for wild grapes with seeds. If you use that style of grape, you will need to remove the seeds prior to cooking. )
- 4 cups apple cider vinegar
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons cloves
- In a large pot, combine the grapes, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce the temperature so that it’s at a bare simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. When the cooking time has elapsed, check on the grapes and if there are some that have not broken down, smash them against the side of pot with a wooden spoon.
- Add the spices and cook for another ten minutes. The mixture will be a dark purple color and syrupy.
- Ladle the catchup into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Store in a dark, cool place.
Adapted from "The New York Times Heritage Cookbook" by Jean Hewitt