A Sweet Southern Sauce
A Sweet Southern SauceSeptember 25, 2012
This time of year you're bound to find a plentiful supply of muscadines and scuppernongs at farmers' markets and even at your local grocery (the exact harvest time depends on weather, variety, and location). Native to the Southeast, muscadines have a complex, intensely grape-y flavor and are a natural match to the nutty spiciness of another native Southerner, bourbon. The two are combined in this sweet dessert sauce, which is akin to a quick jam or chutney. The inherent flavors of the bourbon and grape are backed up by a little honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cayenne pepper. It’s a versatile sauce, great spooned over ice-cream, spread on a biscuit or toast (or a turkey sandwich), even served on a cheese plate.
The recipe’s only trick is separating the grape pulp from the tougher skins, which have tons of flavor but benefit from a head start in a food processor before they’re cooked. This step also makes the bitter seeds easy to remove. Any muscadine variety you can find will work (and each tastes different), whether purple, bronze, or green.
makes about 1 ½ cups
2 pounds (3 cups) muscadines
2 tbs. honey
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup bourbon, plus 2 tbs. for thickening the sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
Split the muscadines in half with a pairing knife, squeeze the pulp into one bowl, and place the skins in a separate bowl. Place the pulp in a saucepan along with a splash (about ¼ cup) of water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the pulp has softened, about 10 minutes. Pass the pulp through a medium mesh strainer (with holes large enough to let the pulp, but not the seeds pass through). Discard the seeds.
Meanwhile, place the muscadine skins in a blender or food processor along with a splash of water, and pulse until pureed.
Combine the muscadine pulp and pureed skins in a saucepan, along with the remaining ingredients, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bourbon for thickening the sauce. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste, and add more honey if necessary, depending on the natural sweetness of the grapes.
Whisk together the remaining two tablespoons of bourbon and cornstarch to form a slurry. Stir the slurry into the sauce, and simmer until the sauce turns glossy and thickens, about 2 minutes.