Here it is: the view of a Houston traffic light at 5:16 a.m.
Aka the middle of the night.
Okay first, can I just say that there was a surprising amount of joggers out and about that morning. We even saw a trio of ladies trotting down a street like it was gossip hour on Sunday afternoon. ON A SATURDAY MORNING. WHY?
Second, I still can’t believe that 3/5 of my invitees to the grape harvest managed to get up at 5a.m. to make the drive and go picking!! They are awesome people. I think we all took long naps when we got back. But still, troopers.
So we made the lengthy drive in time to arrive at the Paradox House Vineyard for the 7:30 a.m. picking. The harvesting needs to happen in the morning in order to save the delicate grapes from the heat. The original invite had come from my coworker, whose boyfriend’s parents own the vineyard. In exchange for help with the red grape harvest (which was earlier than the usual early August harvest, due to the recent torrential rains), each volunteer got a free bottle of wine from the Vineyard. (Side note: the vineyard’s name comes from the fact that the owners both got their PhDs. They are a pair of docs. Hehe.)
As the sun lurched over the horizon, we learned how to clip the bunches of tiny purple grapes. More importantly, we learned how to clip only the usable brunches (no shriveled, light grapes or wet, split grapes. If they smelled sour or off, we tossed them).
A popular method for picking was to use two buckets–one for the grapes, and one for sitting. While some of the grape vines were higher, we started with some that were low to the ground, where the buckets really came in handy.
Hats, sunscreen and sneakers were non-negotiables. I got sweatyyy.
In total, the morning’s harvest yielded almost 10,000 pounds of grapes.
After lunch at the house (a huge spread of BBQ, homemade salads, fruit, beans, roasted veggies, cheese, crackers, etc.), we got to see the mini wine production set up in the barn. There was a grape stemmer and crusher, a juicer and a tube that feeds the juice into a large storage canister where some kind of chemical is added to kill all the bad bacteria and yeast. At that point, yeast is added and then the juice is kept at a certain temperature for the fermentation process.
Then, I believe around Thanksgiving (I could be getting this timing wrong), they’ll take out some juice and make some samples with different levels of sugar–1%, 2%, 3%, etc. Once they decide which taste/sugar level they like, they’ll whip up the rest of the batch and let it stew until December, when they hand bottle all the wine.
Amazing what grape juice can turn into!
On a sweet potato fry note, I made three kinds last night:
Cornflake-crusted on top, cornmeal-crusted in the middle, and cinnamon-sugar-graham-cracker-crusted on the bottom.
Just in case you were curious (as I was) about whether cornmeal-crusted sweet potato fries would be good, let me save you some heartache and tell you that straight up cornmeal and salt on an egg white-crusted sweet potato fry is not that good. Not horrible. But not good.
I think the cinnamon sugar combo might have actually been better without the graham cracker crumbs, which I added because I thought the crust might need more body. But I think the fries would be better off without them. My roommate did comment that the cinnamon sugar was absolutely “not necessary” on the SWEET potato, but I was craving that combination (yay for healthy dessert fries!)
And cornflake. I liked them less this time than the first time because the cornflakes have a very distinct, cereal-y flavor that I noticed more this time around. I want that crunchy texture, but not the cereal flavor. I’m not sure what the next move is…maybe Parmesan?
Due to the failure of my experiment, I felt obliged to finish off another coffeecake muffin. Best decision of the night.
What would you put on YOUR sweet potato fries?