Thursday, October 16, 2014

All Scuppernongs Are Muscadines, Right?

Sure, but not all muscadines are scuppernongs. 
Although we were far more likely to encounter the dark purple muscadine growing wild in the Sandhills, many of my fondest fall memories are of the super-sweet, thick-skinned bronze beauties we called "white grapes", but known by most folks as scuppernon's.

An old ruin of a dwelling languishing among the pines on the sandy ridge above our house served as arbor for a prolific old scuppernong vine that boasted the biggest, sweetest white grapes you can imagine.  

We called it the Witch's House; and for good reason.
Just enough of the structure remained intact to support the notion that a hunch-backed old crone might be lurking just inside, leering silently from the darkness behind an empty window frame, contemplating a nice meal of careless grape-fattened kid.

We only ventured near the place in broad daylight; once the shadows of the pines began to lengthen in the early fall afternoon, we figured you'd be a fool to go near it. But maybe once or twice a year, with a sufficient entourage of friends and family, a grape gathering party would set out around high noon on a Saturday in late September or early October; in a good year, we might fill several large paper Winn Dixie bags with sugary brown sweetness before we were through.

As I recall, they made fabulous jelly, yummy pies (which included the hulls), and a passable (and quite potent) wine, but by far the best way to enjoy them was fresh out of hand. 

For me, that meant popping the whole fruit in my mouth, hull and all, then biting it to force the juice and seedy pulp free from the hull. I then swallowed the gob of pulp and seeds, and spit out the hull, after squeezing every drop of juice out with my teeth. Others would work the flesh around a bit to remove all the seeds and spit them out along with the hull, and there was even one crazy cousin who swallowed the whole thing, chewing on the hulls long past the point when the last of the sweetness was gone.

It's nice to see that there are still a few scuppernongs around for our children to enjoy. 
Too bad the witch's house is gone, though. 
They'd have enjoyed raiding her cellar for a few choice potatoes. 
But that's a story for another day...

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