Purple Food: Muscadine Grapes and Dressing Up a Pork Sandwich

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Continuing in my series of  Purple Food, muscadine grapes are a rich source of polyphenols and are considered a super anti-oxidant. Find out more about the muscadine nutrition profile here.

If you want to increase your knowledge of food, write a food blog. You may think you know about food and have perhaps even lived a sophisticated food life. But, start a food blog and within 9 months you will have noticed about 900 different foods you never heard of. And you start to wonder if you were asleep in the grocery story or market or restaurant for most of your life, because now foods that probably just went under the radar just jumps out at you., and, in their most flirtatious tone, say, “try me., I’ll be fun to write about.”
I’m just minding my own business here at the farmer’s market and I see this:

And just because I’ve never had them, I pop $5 for a bowl of grapes I know nothing about from a vendor who doesn’t even know how to spell their name.

Why did I not know about muscadine grapes? I have been living in the southeast for (gulp) ten years. It was supposed to be a maximum of five and then there was a promise I would be back in sunny California. Hmmm, another topic. But, I have had plenty of time to learn about muscadines.

They are big, in fact, almost as large as ping pong balls. That’s a big grape with a thick skin and seeds almost as large as pine nuts. No matter what you read in any recipe, DO NOT leave the seeds in. But buy them and cook with them. They taste like a sweet wine, but not sweet like concord grapes, a more sophisticated sweet that can go savory very well.

My discovery and purchase started a whole chain of grape making recipes, and experimentation. The first muscadine grape dish featured chicken legs, sausage and autumn orzo. Then I started experimenting with concord grapes, champagne grapes and then back to muscadine grapes and even mixing grapes. I discovered all grapes reduce down well, need a bit of “heat” to counteract the sweet and love thyme, which is a happy coincidence because my herb garden is overflowing with thyme, and I’m just not ready to venture into rosemary yet, (we’ll have plenty of that in October).

Of all the grapes one could cook with, I favor the muscadines. You can cut them in half, easily take out the monstrous seeds, and reduce for about 40 minutes. You could even add some balsamic vinegar to give it some pungency. The thick skins melt down, and the sweet wine taste marries well with fall flavors. This glorious sauce would be also good for chicken, sausage, or duck.

My favorite way to enjoy a muscadine reduction is on this sandwich of left over braised pork loin made earlier this week. A pork sandwich needs crunch so I sauteed some fennel in butter, enough to soften slightly, but still remain a bit crunchy and then smeared on muscadine sauce.
The Perfect Pork Sandwich
I never eat left over pork. It’s usually too dry, too dense, and just not appetizing. But if you start with a tender milk-braised pork loin, saute it with with fennel and top it with a muscadine reduction, you no longer are eating left overs. It’s a brand new creation.

I added a diced hot pepper to the muscadine, so not only are all the textures satisfying, there is a whole lot of surprising flavor. This is one perfect sandwich. And, this would make a perfect purple side.

As far as the recipe, I don’t have exact measurements for this, but the pictures should help you to figure it out.


  • pork loin, thinly sliced
  • fennel, thinly sliced crosswise
  • butter for the pan
  • crusty bread, flattened, grilled, buttered
  • muscadine sauce
  • fresh thyme
  • salt, pepper to season

Muscadine Sauce

  • 1 bag full of muscadine grapes, cut in half and seeded
  • 1-2 T hot peppers, finely diced (or cayenne pepper)
  • 1-2 T quality balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 2-3 stems fresh thyme
  • salt, pepper to season
  1. Cut grapes in half, take out seeds, place on medium to low heat with thyme with room for spreading out. Add some diced hot peppers (or cayenne pepper) to bring in some heat.
    In the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, you may choose to add the vinegar.
    Season to taste.
  2. Place pork on bottom, top with fennel, fresh thyme off stem, and muscadine sauce.
  3. Reduce in frying pan for approximately 45 minutes on medium low heat.
    The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat to use.

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