Some memories are happy, some sad, and some are delicious to the taste, Last weekend I had one of those delicious tasting memories in the form of a small glass of muscadine juice, which set my mind in motion remembering all things associated with that divine taste….and smell.
I remember mama making muscadine jelly and the aroma, which once smelled was never forgotten, wafting through the house. It was an annual event to trek into the woods and gather those luscious wild grapes in the autumn. There was also a place on Mt. Magazine where they grew in proliferation and sometimes we drove there and quickly filled our sacks and bags. Mama being partially of Scottish decent, never wasted anything so the skins, which were not used in the actual jelly and which were thicker than on tame grapes, were cooked down and made into a thick spread or into a filling for a pie…oh yum!
It was also from her I learned to make muscadine juice….the drink of the gods. How can one even begin to describe the sweet, tart, musky taste of that juice when it’s indescribable? The wild muscadine is an almost black purple color and to me the taste cannot be improved on. There are many varieties grown in vineyards now; bronze, red and white as well as purple. They all have a somewhat similar taste but each one is subtly different and milder flavored than their wild ancestor. When making juice one must have patience for it can’t be enjoyed immediately. The wait time is at least six weeks while the juice steeps in the jar until all the flavor is pulled from the fruit. But oh my, it’s worth waiting for! There’s nothing better than a cold glass of that heavenly tasting nectar.
For many years after I married, on our rambles through the countryside we took note of where the muscadine vines were growing and went back in the fall to gather the fruit…what happy memories. We also bought a fair amount from local vineyards. I ‘d then take a day to make jam and juice, starting early and working late. We had a large family to feed so we’re talking dozens and dozens of jars of each. For that one day an incredible smell filled my home and brought back childhood memories. The next morning a hot buttered biscuit loaded with the freshly made jam was sure to be on the menu; my mouth salivates at the thought. After my children married I carried on the jam/juice making tradition for many years, making sure each of them had a few jars to enjoy in their own homes. Sadly, muscadines are not so easily found anymore and the vineyards I knew have all quit producing. Several years ago when we moved to our retirement home a neighbor had some producing vines. He gave us some muscadines one year and I made a few jars of jam and juice, not enough to share but enough for my husband and me. After my husband passed away and I moved to Texas six months ago we found one remaining jar of juice hidden away in the pantry as we packed. Since the whole family was there we opened it on the spot and passed the jar around, each getting a taste or two. Need I say it was delicious…and need I say the onslaught of memories that taste produced? It was clear at that moment that a memory tastes just like, well, just like muscadine juice.
Sometimes one can find muscadine juice in specialty shops or sections of grocery stores as my son recently did. It was a white juice instead of the beautiful claret color that I used to make. And although it was good it wasn’t, as my daughter in law said, as good as mine. For those who have never tasted muscadine juice, you simply must try it if you get a chance. I do realize its not just the taste that has me so besotted, it was the family time spent in scouting out the whereabouts of the muscadines and then gathering them; it was the aroma that filled the air as they were worked up; and finally the delicious finished product that was enjoyed throughout the year bringing a feeling of love and a sense of satisfaction with each bite.
In this day and time few things that brought one generation such happy memories can be handed down to the next generation with the same result. I’m sorry to say that after many generations, this particular memory probably ends with my children. But on a positive note perhaps they will make some delicious memories with their children that will be handed down for a generation or two. What does a memory taste like….to you?