Ravishing East Coast autumn weather out there, with blue skies and nippy breezes. My kitchen smells like a Concord grape vineyard, all warm and winey, and little purple spatters are everywhere. 3 pounds of Concord grapes made less than a pint of jelly, alas, but I'm very excited to try a grape jelly that's not corn-syruped and kiddie-sweet. Also on the grape-season agenda--the schiacciata d'uva over at Sullivan St Bakery (no longer on Sullivan Street, but way over on 47th St near 11th Ave). This is a thin (the name means "squashed") foccacia covered in champagne grapes and anise seeds, sprinkled with sugar and glossed with olive oil. Heaven in a greasy brown paper bag, and only made this time of year.
What else? I did make apple butter chez PQM, which cut my apple haul considerably, so I only had to lug one heavy backpack full back on the bus and subway (this was, of course, the afternoon some nut job decided to tie up the entire Port Authority with suspicious-package threats, so I had to stagger down Eighth Avenue for 10 blocks with a bushel of apples on my back, in order to get to the next 2 train stop. Thanks, dude.) The apples, unpeeled, were quartered (I took out the cores, after having a sudden pang wondering about the cyanide in the apple seeds) and thrown in a big pot with a few splashes of apple cider. Once the apples had simmered into pulpy softness, I cranked them through my cheap little plastic food mill to make a gorgeous lipstick-pink puree. This was mixed with a cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt, a splash of apple cider vinegar and a bit of sugar, then spread into a heavy metal hotel pan. Baked in a slow oven (250-275F) for 3 or 4 hours, stirring occasionally, the mixture thickened and cooked down into a rich spread. Half of my huge bag of apples made 8 or 9 half-pints.
I'm going to do another batch this week, and will come up with a recipe with more specific measurements and times. And yes, close readers might know that the Pie Queen had a birthday on Monday. Chocolate cupcakes and beautiful pink roses from K., venison at La Goulue and Germain-Robin XO cognac (made in Ukiah, California, despite the Frenchy name, and as close to drinking sunshine and silk as you can imagine) at the Brandy Library with B. (and thanks to Bucky for being on the spot when I called California to ask the name of a bar in Manhattan), and best of all, family and friends singing happy birthday in person and on the phone from many places. Cake and candles are nice, but feeling the love is even better.