last night’s raccoons…

…must’ve been disappointed when they found only one or two clumps of grapes left on the pergola over the deck we use for summer dinners. This particular vine doesn’t usually produce much but this year it was laden. And when the neighbour on Sakinaw Lake said that bears had visited his garden and torn apart the grape-vines, John decided it was time to pick our grapes. We planted this vine many years ago and I don’t recall the variety. A muscat flavour, not unpleasant, but if we get grapes at all, they don’t often ripen. This year was different. And last night we heard scrambling around in the vine. Shining a flashlight down the slope of roof from our bedroom windows, we could see three pairs of eyes shining back. And one very large raccoon — the mama? — right by our window. The joke was on them. Ten pounds of ripe grapes waited in the porch for this morning when I extracted their juice and then made them into jelly. I don’t like grape jelly much. It’s often too sweet and it’s neither one thing (jam) nor another (savoury). Last year my friend Harold Rhenisch gave me a box of his Himrod grapes and they were delicious. I made them into jelly flavoured with lots of lime zest and rosemary (I put lots of fresh rosemary in a little cheesecloth bag to simmer with the juice). So I fiddled a bit with that method — the great thing about having spent 35 years making preserves of every sort is that I can figure out proportions and the prospect of success pretty well — and added a fresh chili pepper from one of my plants to each jar, along with a sprig of rosemary. It smells heavenly. It smells like something you want to tuck into the little pockets in a warm croissant on a winter morning. Or on a summer evening, with a plate of cold chicken and fresh baguette and a salad of new potatoes dusted with smoky La Chinata paprika, while overhead the grapes swell and ripen and their leaves keep the table shaded. And the raccoons dream of their share. Bears too.


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