Because of the diverse nature of the many different restaurants and chefs Brian Henry has worked under he is highly proficient at a wide range of cuisines.

Brian’s cooking is seasonal, inventive and smart, but in no way unapproachable or fussy. When he is coaxed out of the kitchen and starts talking about food, his passion and knowledge are instantly recognizable.

"Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen". Thanks

Tony Aspler, Wine writer

“Chef Brian Henry puts one hundred percent of his energy into going all the way.”

Birgit Moenke, Editor Stir Media Read More Reviews

Gastronomically yours,

Wild Grape Jelly

 

There are dozens of varieties of wild grapes. Locally we have what is known as the “Summer Grape”. This grape is virtually indestructible as it slowly creeps its way across the Kawartha’s.  It’s not a wonder that the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs classified wild grape vines as a weed as this disease and pest resistant plant can grow in excess of 50 feet in length with its snake like tendrils choking all vegetation that become snarled in their coils.

Annoying as this plant may be we need to closely examine it to appreciate its benefits. Wild grapes have been interbred with other grape varieties to produce hybrid grapes so they too can share its disease and pest resistant properties which has greatly benefited the commercial wine industry.

Genetics aside, all parts of the wild grape plant can be harvested and used in our kitchens. The vines can be used for making skewers, baskets and wreaths, their leaves are great in Mediterranean preparations like dolmades where grape leaves are stuffed, rolled and cooked like a cabbage roll and of course there is the grapes themselves.

The grapes are a food source for birds and wildlife which often leave few grapes behind to be harvested. This year seems to be the exception as wild grapes are quite plentiful and still available in abundance to be harvested. These grapes are perfect for making jelly, although they are usually quite sour, cold weather sees the natural sugars in the grape intensify.

I urge you to get outdoors this Thanksgiving weekend with your family and harvest some wild grapes and make a batch of grape jelly using the following recipe that was graciously provided by Susan Jackson who also inspired this week’s column.

Please note that grapes have multiple seeds. If the grapes you harvest have a single seed; they are not grapes but the poisonous moonseed berry.

 

Kawartha Grape Jelly

Using garden clippers and a pail collect 3 – 5 pounds of grapes. You may want wear gloves for this as grape juice will stain your skin. Keep clean and organized in your kitchen to prevent stain damage to clothing and countertops as well. Note that this is a two stage recipe.

Ingredients:

3-5 lbs wild grapes stemmed and cleaned of leaves and insects.

Method:

Cover the bottom of a stainless steel pot with a layer of grapes and crush them with a potato masher. Heat the mashed grapes over medium heat, with the lid on, until they begin to release their juice. This will take about for about five minutes. Again crush the grapes and add the remaining grapes to the pot. Cover and heat over low heat for about an hour, frequently crushing the grapes during this time to extract as much of the grape juice as possible. Give the grapes one last thorough crushing. Transfer the mixture into a jelly bag, or cheesecloth lined colander and suspended it over a large stainless steel pot or bowl to collect the juice. Cover this mixture with a garbage bag to keep the fruit flies out. Let it sit overnight in a cool place letting gravity extract the juice. You will need to collect 3 1/2 cups of pure grape juice.

In a large stainless steel pot or pan combine

3½ cups of grape juice

¼ cup of lemon juice

7 cups of white sugar

Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Skim off any surface foam that may appear. While the jelly is at a full rolling boil, pour in 1 packet of Certo fruit pectin. Continue stirring until the pot returns to a rolling boil. Let it boil for one minute and stir the jelly constantly as it boils.

Remove the pan to a trivet and continue stirring it for three minutes.

Quickly distribute the hot jelly to your sterilized jars, heat and seal the jars as per your preference but be sure to listen for the pop as the lids seal themselves as they cool. Label your jelly and store until needed.

 

Never double a jelly recipe as they are doomed to fail.

 

 

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Off the Vine

Walking the dogs down a trail in my backyard this past week I found the old split rail fence being once again consumed by grapevines. For the wild species of grapes that grow in our area I prefer to use the vines and leaves to the grapes themselves, besides the birds usually beat me to the fruit clusters.

The vines make for a rustic yet chic skewer to use on the BBQ or for presenting fruit k-bobs. I like to take the vines with the leaves still attached and cover a smoking hot grill on the Barbie with them about a centimetre or two deep, then lay some trout or salmon fillets over top of the grape leaves and close the lid. The combination of flavours produced by this technique are delicious as the moisture released from the vines and leaves produces steam, then the vines will burn and impart a smoky flavour into the fillets.

One can also do recipes with a worldly flair using the grape leaves themselves to produce Dolmades, which is a Greek dish similar to cabbage rolls. These dainty vine leaf packets are traditionally served as meze an appetizer.

 

Kawartha Dolmades

12 larger sized grape leaves

Filling:

1tbsp. olive oil

1 cup of ground beef or chicken

3 tbsp. Pine nuts or sliced almonds

1 yellow onion chopped fine

1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tomato minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

Three quarters cup of beef or chicken stock

2tbsp. tomato paste

1tbsp. castor sugar

 

First gather your grape leaves. Pick nice healthy leaves and rinse them off. Gently simmer the leaves for 5 minutes in salted water. Remove the leaves from the water and allow them to cool.

For the filling, heat oil in a fry pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat, nuts and onion. Cook until browned. Next stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Lay the vine leaves shiny side down onto your work surface. Place some of the filling in the centre of each leaf and fold the stalk end over the filling. Fold the sides over as well and roll up the packet towards the leaf tip. Return the packets seam side down to your fry pan. For the sauce combine all of the ingredients together and mix well. Pour the mixture into the fry pan with the leaf parcels, over low heat allow everything to simmer together for 20 minutes and serve hot.

 

 

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