This recipe has a roundabout origin. I saw an article about weaving bacon and cooking it in the oven with a link to a blog that had instructions: http://www.savorynotes.com/recipe/bl-tastic The same day food52 announced the recipe contest for best grapes. I knew I had to try the bacon weaving and I wondered how to incorporate grapes and bacon into a sandwich. I decided to try turning seedless grapes into a relish. I tried a couple of slightly different versions, with about the same result. It tasted just like pickle relish, without a trace of grape flavor. Not quite what I was hoping for. The next idea that came to me was to caramelize the grapes. Success! After a few tweaks I had what I was looking for. The grapes become surprisingly rich in both flavor (raisins meet caramelized onions) and color (a deep translucent plum-brown). A splash of sherry vinegar adds a much needed tang, and a bit of thyme adds an herbal savory note. The end result is more jam than relish. It goes brilliantly with nutty cheeses, and could be used in place of fig preserves or quince paste on a cheese plate. By the way, I did make that sandwich with it – peanut butter, jammish, woven bacon, and lightly dressed arugula – and it was very good.
- Makes ¾ to 1 cup
1 ½ to 1 ¾ lbs red seedless grapes, larger ones are best
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus additional to taste
½ teaspoon minced fresh thyme (optional – it's good either way)
- Set fine mesh strainer over a bowl or glass measure. Place about 1/3rd of the grapes in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment. Pulse until grapes are chopped, no large chunks remain, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer grapes to mesh strainer, and repeat with remaining grapes in 2 more batches. Allow the juices to strain while heating olive oil.
- Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet (not non-stick or cast iron) over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the strained grapes and salt. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the strained juice to add at the end of the recipe. Discard or repurpose the rest of the juice. Stir the grape mixture occasionally, until the juices have evaporated, about 6 to 8 minutes. Once the juices have evaporated the grapes will start to caramelize. Continue to cook, stirring more frequently until the grapes have caramelized, about 15 minutes. The best tool for this is a silicone spatula; the grapes want to cling together so the non-stick spatula allows them to be stirred then spread. After the bare patches on the bottom of the pan become golden brown stir-spread the grapes. Repeat the process until the grapes are a deep, translucent, brown-tinged plum color. There should be few if any paler bits remaining when they are done.
- Add the reserved grape juice and sherry vinegar to the pan, and stir to incorporate into the grapes. Once the liquid has almost evaporated remove from heat. Carefully taste (it's hot!) a small bit of the mixture, and stir in more vinegar if desired. Stir in thyme. Transfer to a glass jar or other storage container. Allow to cool. Store covered in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.