This Concord grape sorbet has a wonderfully vibrant color, a great sweet grape flavor and smooth texture. It's easy to make and a great way to use up some of this lovely grape variety when in season, and enjoy for months to come.
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For years, I have seen the odd houses around with grape vines in the garden and thought how lovely it would be to have some. Well, we have now inherited some vines which is great. But there's a certain rush to use them up when they are ripe!
As a result, in between snacking on them, I've been busy working my way through various uses for the lovely Concord grapes we now have. It's definitely a nice problem to have and the kids have been more than happy to enjoy the Concord grape jam I made and this sorbet. It has such an amazing color, and the flavor is wonderful, too, it's easy to love.
What are Concord grapes?
If you are not familiar with them, Concord grapes are a dark purple, almost blue grape with a lovely fragrant aroma. Their name is after Concord, Massachusetts, where the variety was developed. They are a table grape, so you can eat them just as they are. The flavor is both sweet, slightly aromatic and a lot more vibrant than many varieties.
Unlike some other table grapes, especially many European varieties, they have relatively large seeds and what's called a slip skin. This means the skin is thicker and comes away easily from the pulp. The skin is a little more tart but also has a lot of flavor, so you want to enjoy it too. And if you are cooking with the grapes, the skin is what gives the lovely color.
Difference between sorbet and ice cream
Sorbets and ice cream are different types of frozen desserts and have one key difference. Ice creams are creamy (hence the name) as they include some form of dairy, while sorbets do not. Sorbets are made from usually a fruit pulp or juice, though they can also be made with an infused syrup.
Sorbets are most like granitas, like coffee granita or lemon granita, but the main difference in the texture. You churn sorbets, like ice cream, while granitas are often made more by scraping by hand periodically. The ice crystals in sorbets are small and some kinds seem almost creamy, though without having any dairy.
Do you need to add sugar?
While it's possible to make sorbet with just fruit, typically you also add sugar in there for a few reasons. Firstly, the most obvious one, is to add sweetness. Many fruits are naturally relatively sweet, but need that bit of a boost when you make them into a sorbet (as is also true for many baked goods).
Secondly, flavors tend to dull when frozen so the sugar helps to make the flavor that bit more vibrant. And finally, the sugar helps to make the texture a little easier to work with. Pure fruit tends to give a more dense texture, while the sugar helps to soften it.
Concord grapes are naturally pretty sweet so they don't need too much additional sugar. To me, the end result here strikes a good balance of good texture but not overly sweet. But if you prefer it sweeter, you can add a little more sugar.
Tricks to give a softer texture, if you feel it's needed for this or other frozen treats, are to use a little corn syrup and/or alcohol in the mixture.
Both of these soften the texture which can make it easier to scoop. In terms of alcohol, you would generally add something that is either neutral, like vodka, or that pairs with the flavor. Personally, though, I don't feel you need either here.
Preparing the grapes for the sorbet base
As mentioned above, Concord grapes have seeds that you want to remove as they wouldn't be good in the end sorbet. You have a few ways to do this, like the separating method I used for the jam. But for this I have gone with a probably simpler method of just simmering the grapes whole then pressing through a strainer. If you have a food mill, this will also work.
With this method, you don't get quite all of the pulp in there and you hold back skins as well as the seeds. But you have already managed to extract most of the flavor and color from the skins through the simmering process. And unlike jam, having pulp in there is not as needed for a sorbet - you're really looking for flavored liquid.
I add the sugar in with the grapes as they simmer so that it dissolves in the heat. So once strained, the grape liquid is ready to churn into sorbet.
Top tip: chill the base before churning
As your instructions will no doubt tell you, you need to chill the base before you add it to the ice cream maker. For ice cream, this is partly so you don't accidentally get butter. But with all frozen treats, chilling before you churn helps to ensure small ice crystals which gives a smoother, creamier texture as you eat.
An ice cream maker makes the churning process so much easier, but if you don't have one, it's still possible to make this. One option is to largely freeze the base then blend up chunks to break it up. The other option, is to freeze and stir at regular intervals, around every 30 minutes or so, to break up the chunks.
My scooping in these pictures is far from perfect, mainly as I think I tried to scoop when it was a little too firm (too keen to dive in!) but the texture of this sorbet is nice and smooth.
This concord grape sorbet has a beautiful vibrant color, a lovely grape flavor and is sweet without being overly so. It's refreshing and makes a lovely dessert or treat. Plus a wonderful way to use up some Concord grapes and enjoy them that bit longer.
Try these other frozen treats:
- Cherry ice cream
- Mango paletas (ice pops)
- Persimmon ginger sorbet
- No churn raspberry chocolate chip ice cream
- Plus get more dessert recipes in the archives.
Concord grape sorbet
- 1 ½ lb Concord grapes weight off stems
- ¼ cup water
- ⅓ cup sugar
- Pick the grapes off the stems and wash them well. Drain then place in a medium pot/saucepan and add the water and sugar.
- Place the pot/pan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for around 5 - 8 minutes so that the skins burst and the grapes become very soft. There should be plenty of nicely purple liquid and some seeds will start to come out from the pulp.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool a couple minutes then strain to remove the seeds and skins. Place the strained mixture in the fridge to cool completely, around an hour or so.
- Following your ice cream maker's instructions, pour the chilled grape mixture into the ice cream maker and churn until it reaches a good consistency. Then, transfer to a container to freeze until firmer and for longer storage. When you are ready to serve, allow it to sit a minute or two to soften slightly before scooping (unlike me who got rougher scoops as a result!)
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
This recipe draws on this Kitchen Lane recipe, with a few adaptations.