The two baskets of ripe grapes we gathered from our old vines were too few for wine and too seedy to eat; so Costas and I decided to press them and take the juice to drink, freeze some to make granita, and certainly make moustalevria, the traditional grape must jelly our mothers used to make each year.
The old recipes ask for a lengthy process of simmering and clarifying the grape must with wood ash, which I always skip. I much prefer a fruity-tasting moustalevria, so I briefly boil the juice with the cornstarch, just until it thickens, much like I do when I make my orange ‘cream’ in the winter. You can use any nice grapes you like to make the juice, but I wouldn’t use the canned concord grape juice available everywhere in the US as I am not fond of its taste and aroma.
5 cups grape juice (see NOTE 1 & 2)
3-6 tablespoons honey, or to taste
3/4 cup (100 grams) cornstarch
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely ground
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
In a saucepan, over medium-low heat, pour 4 cups grape juice and stir in 3 tablespoons honey. In a bowl dilute the cornstarch with the remaining cup of juice, stirring vigorously, then add it to the pan.
Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with wooden spoon until the moustalevria thickens and the cornstarch is cooked. Taste, and add more honey if you like it sweeter.
Divide into individual bowls or soup plates, as our mothers used to. Let cool and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, preferably overnight, until it sets. It will be somewhat wobbly.
Sprinkle with walnuts and with toasted sesame seeds, if you like, and serve.
You can juice any kind of seedless grapes in the juicer, if you have one, or in the blender, to make moustalevria. If you use the blender you may want to strain the juice; I would not, as I don’t mind some pulp. I don’t like the canned concord grape juice because its taste and aroma are different from what I am used to.
To extract the juice from our very seedy grapes, we used an old-fashioned food processor to mash the grapes because we didn’t want to break the seeds in the fancier blender. First, of course, Costas washed the grapes and took out most of the stems.
We transferred the resulting juicy mash from the food processor to a large cheesecloth and pressed it to get the delicious, tangy juice. Our neighbor’s hens feasted on the leftover seeds and skins…
If you use the juice of white grapes (see the photo from my first book The Foods of Greece) and you preferred a more attractive, reddish moustalevria, substitute one cup of the grape juice with red sweet wine, such as the Greek Mavrodaphne, or Manischewitz, adjusting the amount of honey accordingly.