Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shaker Spiced Grape Drink for Summer

I'm intrigued by old Shaker recipes, which is probably not a surprised considering how often I post them on the blog. (Shaker Squash Rolls and Chilled Strawberry-Mint Soup for example.)

Ever since my stint as a Canterbury Shaker Village tour guide, I’ve had an interest in the cuisine created by the sisters. Of particular interest is their skill at adding herbs and spices to dishes in ways that may not seem obvious to everyone. This Spiced Grape Drink is a good example.

One hot summer afternoon, many years ago, I paid my first visit to the Village. The grounds were so peaceful and beautiful, with the gardens in full mid-summer form.

To cool off for a bit, I took a break in the shade of a huge tree with a glass of icy spiced grape drink. It was a revelation! Cool, refreshing, and restorative. The perfect summer drink for both kids
and adults.

The Village has a decades-long tradition of serving visitors grape juice. The late Eldress Bertha Lindsay wrote in her book Seasoned with Grace: My Generation of Shaker Cooking:

“Many times in the summer, in the earlier days, our guests—the tourists who came here—would be served a quart of our grape juice. We didn’t expect them to pay for it either; they were given the drink because it made a delightful, cooling beverage in hot weather, and we were very happy to have them enjoy the fruit of the vine as we did.”

This recipe was adapted from one I found in The Shaker Kitchen by Chef Jeffrey S. Paige. The spiced-filled juice tastes wonderful on its own over ice. However, for a more grown-up taste, top it off with bubbles, such as club soda, seltzer, or sparkling wine.  

Keep a batch in the refrigerator and you will be set for summer.

Shaker Spiced Grape Drink
Adapted from The Shaker Kitchen by Chef Jeffrey S. Paige
Makes 2 quarts

As the Shaker’s did, I recommend using Concord grape juice for this recipe, preferably organic.

2 quarts Concord grape juice
1/2 cup sugar
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
3 tablespoons whole allspice

Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to barely a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the juice through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a bowl or pitcher to remove the spices. Allow the juice to cool to room temperature, and then refrigerated until well chilled.

Serve juice over ice. Add club soda, seltzer, or sparkling wine, if desired.  

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