Jordan’s Queen Isabella Grapes
A dear friend wrote to me a few weeks back about some small, red, spanish grapes grown here in Jordan. ‘They have a taste that is out of this world’ she wrote.. and that they were called Isabella.
Intrigued by their name and Nadine’s alluring decsription of the fruit, I made my way to the Botma, Yanboot Organic market in Canvas Restaurant one friday morning in Al Weibdeh area of Amman to check them out. The grapes were very sweet indeed with hard skin and large pips inside. Talking to the owner of Yanboot, I realized it was best to juice them..few more ideas were born out of that and they ended up in Red Wine Vinegar, Ice Lolies, Frozen Juice for the winter months and eventually they will be churned into Ice Cream.
I spoke to the owner of the organic Botma farms Mr. Nasser Qudah and there was a lot more to those grapes than just meets the tongue. They have been cross bred with several fruits like mango and various berries to yield such an extreme sweet taste. According to Nasser these grapes originated in Spain and were named after Queen Isabella, they were harvested again in the US and Europe and have been brought over to Jordan in 2013. The controversy about their breeding has been written about here.
Red Wine Vinegar Method
I was told to crush those grapes by hand and place them in a big bowl covered for a week with a muslin cloth. I kept the stems, seeds and skin all inside the liquid. The idea is everything is kept within this bowl so as the wild yeast is growing within the fruits and feeding/transforming it into wine first then vinegar later on. After few days, the grapes and juice turned into wine with strong sweet taste.
After two weeks of sitting in the shade feeding from the O2 coming in through the window the suspension smelt very strong of vinegar.
To settle it, I sieved back all the residue and settled it again (now just liquid) in a jug. Three days later I slowly sieved it again, keeping the resin behind – I later poured it into bottles to be fridged. Apparently that’s how the process of vinegar is stabilized.