Do you only associate Concord Grapes with communion wine and Smuckers jelly? Well that’s a shame, because the giant, purple-black grapes (one of only three fruits native to North America!) are one of the fall season’s greatest edible delights and one of our very favorites. Making their first appearance in 1854 (and named, appropriately enough, after the Massachusetts town where the initial variety was grown), over 336,000 tons of the robust, highly aromatic fruit are produced throughout the US today, with New York growing the second highest number in the world.
Highly prized by chefs for their easy-to-remove skins and explosively sweet taste (truly, they have the most profound “grape” flavor of any varietal, bar none!), concords have just begun to make their heralded appearance, at restaurants throughout the city. Cosme’s incredible pastry chef, Jesus Perea, is currently incorporating them in an eye-catching dessert, featuring geometric squares of honey panna cotta flavored with jasmine, and jiggling squares of jet-black concord grape jelly. At Dimes, they’ve found their way into the seasonally changing Big Salad, tossed with delicata squash, brussels sprouts and toasted pumpkin seeds. They kick off the tasting menu at Galen Zamarra’s Almanac, plated with acorn squash, lamb bacon, and clods of smoked blue cheese, and at Tom Colicchio’s Craft, concords form the base of silky, garnet sorbet. In Brooklyn, Kimoto is showcasing concord grapes in an inventive play on PB&J (wasabi crackers topped with hazelnut butter, concord grape jelly and uni), and at Williamsburg’s Black Tree, you can try house-made concord bitters mixed into either a fizzy soda or potent cocktail, spiked with whiskey, bourbon or vodka.
While concord grapes are rarely available at standard grocery stores, you should certainly be able to find them at farmers markets — just make sure to choose fruits that are plump, firmly attached to their stems and deeply colored, with no sign of green. Store unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. Remove grapes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving (they’re best at room temperature) and wash before eating. They do have seeds (as is the case with all especially flavorful grapes), so either spit them out as you go, cut the grapes in half and manually remove the seeds, or puree and separate the seeds out using a sieve.
Besides eating them whole, there are numerous ways to enjoy concord grapes — including making them into jelly (of course), or a classic concord grape pie. There’s also a special version of focaccia (known as Schiacciata con L’uva), studded with rosemary and concord grapes, and they’re delectable stirred into risotto, along with savory hunks of sausage. Sorbets and granitas are always a great bet, and you can drink the juice or use as a cordial, to stir into sodas and cocktails. So definitely don’t let the all too fleeting Concord Grape season pass you by — because it’s only a matter of time before we’re sadly relegated to pears and apples, when we’re looking for a fresh fruit fix this fall.
35 E 21st St., btwn Broadway & 5th Ave
49 Canal St., Ludlow St & Orchard St
28 7th Ave S
43 E 19th St., Broadway & S Park Ave
216 Duffield St., Willoughby St & Fulton St
261 Metropolitan Ave.