Few foods have had a more prominent place in kitchens and cultures across the globe than grapes. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern art from Ancient Greece to the Islamic Golden Age to the Renaissance Masters are replete with ripe inviting grapes of all kinds and colors.
That isn’t even counting grapes’ happy Bacchanalian byproduct, wine, bottled and beloved from Bordeaux to Melbourne to Monterey Bay and beyond.
But what about when grapes go bad or are overripe? If Caravaggio’s “Bacchus” is meant to show grapes (and life) young and ripe, his “Young Sick Bacchus” shows just how awful sickness and aging can be – and the same goes for overripe-ness.
If you have a refrigerator full of overripe grapes, it might be tempting to toss them out straight away. After all, overripe fruit can taste awful, cause “digestive disruptions” (to put it tactfully), and aren’t the kind of thing you want to include in a meal or eat on their own.
Still, it’d be a shame for all those grapes to go to waste, which is why you’ll want to consider these six options for salvaging overripe grapes.
1 – Turn up the Heat
Granted, it’s not everyday you hear the phrase “roasted grapes,” but desperate overripe times call for desperate and, in this case, sizzling-hot measures.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, grilling grapes can actually bring out a pretty nice taste in them approaching baked pineapple or blackberries.
If you like the taste of those fruit delicacies but don’t have them on hand or don’t want to pay for them, and you have some overripe grapes, well, you’re in luck.
This recipe can taste best when you mix in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them at around 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
This allows them to cook thoroughly and gives them a lovely texture that pairs perfectly with salads, stuffing, or else they can be used as a snack in themselves.
2 – “Raisin” the Stakes
Few foods divide people quite like raisins. Either they’re an abomination that leaves you wondering who in their right mind would do that to an innocent grape, or nature’s own sweet snack that you can put in cookies or take with you while hiking and enjoy guilt-free.
If you’re in the latter camp, you’ll be happy to know that while fresh grapes are always preferable, overripe grapes can still be easily recycled into raisins.
To achieve this, you’ll need a dehydrator. (An oven can work too, but it’s not preferable.) Prepare the dehydrator to the proper settings (or set your oven to 180 degrees) while rinsing your overripe grapes and blanching them by placing them in boiling water by taking them straight from that extreme heat to ice cold.
Remove the stems, and then cut the overripe grapes. Set them out on a cooking sheet, pan, or similar surface.
Now it’s time to dry out the grapes. Let them dry in the oven or a similarly controlled area for between 18 to 24 hours. At around the 12-hour mark, rotate the grapes so both sides get dried out and don’t stick to the pan.
You’ll probably want to check on them a bit during the process to make sure they’re drying properly, but otherwise this is the definition of a time where you can “set it and forget it.”
3 – Refreeze Them
“Ice, ice, maybe?” If your grapes have gone mushy, there may be a chance that refreezing them can help firm them back up again.
That said, unless you want to wind up with little grape-sized off-tasting popsicles, you want to monitor the refrigerating process carefully to make sure the grapes don’t actually completely freeze all the way through.
Simply leave them in the freezer for a few minutes, checking on them periodically to see if they have firmed up to an adequate degree.
On the other hand, maybe you do want to freeze them all the way through so as to provide yourself with that tasty popsicle-esque treat. If so, you’re in luck, as you can do that too.
All you have to do is wash them off, spread them out on a pan, and then freeze them for a couple hours.
As a bonus, if you’re a fan of adding fruity icy goodness to your sangria, frozen grapes can make for a unique twist.
4 – The Possibility of Wine
If you’re a wine lover and like to make your own bottles, you might wonder if it’s worth the trouble of trying to recycle your overripe grapes into a new concoction.
The subject of ripeness and grapes in wine is a complex one, but while ripe grapes are naturally preferable a lot of the time, you might well wonder if you could still get away with these.
Well, the answer is yes and no, albeit more of the latter. Older overripe grapes can give a dusty nuanced flavor to certain wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc. Of course, wherever possible, you’ll want to make use of fresh grapes.
That said, if you’re in a more experimental mood and understand the impact it can have on your wine’s taste, it may be worth giving this a try.
5 – Of Juices and Jams
If you cannot use your grapes “whole,” you might be able to mash them up and still salvage the juices inside, overripe or otherwise.
After all, even if the grape’s outer skin is starting to get saggy, if it hasn’t gone rotten and is still in decent enough shape, you might be able to squeeze it out to get to take advantage of that grape-tastic taste in different juices and jams.
To really get the most out of this option, you’ll want to make use of a juicer, which can juice your grape properly and make sure that you get all of the liquid and flavor with none of the saggy skin or pulp.
While it’s probably asking too much for this juice to be drinkable on its own, it can still be used as a mixer for cocktails and other concoctions.
In addition, you could always take these juices and mix them up in a special jam recipe, either on their own or as an additive.
6 – Special Recipes
Last, but not least, you might just want to consider mushier grapes as a baking ingredient and use them as part of a recipe that requires grapes in the first place.
We have already established that cooking grapes is an option, so why not use these mushier overripe grapes as an option in grape cobblers, pies, or similar options?
This tends to work best when the grapes called for in the recipe need to be mashed up into tiny pieces. Mushiness doesn’t matter when mashing the grapes up is just part of the recipe anyway.
One of the best things about grapes is that they are incredibly versatile, as this list demonstrates. Other fruits being overripe might mean the end of their usefulness.
However, there are a wide range of overripe grape recipes and alternatives just waiting for you to try them out.
They may not all be masterpieces, but one or more of these ideas might just be the grape-salvaging brush with genius you’re looking for.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.