Celebrate Eastern North Carolina’s Muscadines and Scuppernongs

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Tis the season for muscadines and scuppernongs, the wild grapes native to the
Southeastern portion of America. The generally start to appear at Farmers Markets and roadsides stands across Eastern NC around the end of August and through September and October. They are a beautiful bronze and purple reminder that fall is on the way.
Both the muscadine and scuppernong grapes are large, round, thick-skinned fruits that are often artfully transformed into sweet wines, jams and jellies. Both originated as wild varieties and taste like it, they have fairly tough skins, the muscadine is a deep purple color, and the scuppernong variety are typically green or a bronze color.
Opinions differ on how to eat a muscadine, but according to the North Carolina Muscadine Association, to eat the grape, place the grape with the stem scar facing your mouth and
squeeze or bite the grape. The pulp and juice will burst through the skin into your mouth.
The next step is where the controversy begins. You can skip the skins, or you can chew it up a tad to get more of the flavor, or you can spit out the seeds and eat the whole grape. I prefer the latter. Remember a good bit of the real nutrition is always in the skin!!!
North Carolina celebrates its muscadine and scuppernong heritage each September in Kenansville. In 2015, more than 25 vineyards, cellars and wineries that sell muscadine and scuppernong wines, jams and other products participated – attesting to the growing popularity of these grapes.
To really celebrate the Mighty Muscadine check out the North Carolina Muscadine Festival
I have had the pleasure several times of judging the Muscadine Festival Cooking Contest, and you would not believe how many different recipes muscadines and scuppernongs can be used in. Here are just a few.

Muscadine Butter

2 pounds muscadines
1 ½ cups sugar
8 tablespoons lemon juice
Place the ingredients in a pan and slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lightly crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon, or a potato masher, as they warm up.
Gently boil for 15 minutes until the muscadines are soft and tender and have released their juice.
Remove from the heat and either pass through a sieve or a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.

Put the resulting juice in a heavy bottomed pan and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until it becomes a thick and spreadable consistency, about 80-90 minutes. Pour the thickened fruit into sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace and then process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. If you need to know more about water bath canning, call your local Cooperative Extension office for safe recipes or check the guide in the Ball Canning Book. Yields 3, 4 ounce jars.

Muscadine and Scuppernong Sorbet

1 cup water
½ cup sugar
1 slice lemon
1 quart muscadines, and or scuppernongs
Ice cream maker
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar and lemon; stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
Place clean grapes in a food processor, pulse to a coarse grind. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and transfer pulp to strainer. With the back of a spatula, press juice from the pulp.
Be patient and gentle; this step takes time to get all the juice out of the pulp. Discard solids.
Combine juice and simple syrup. Place in refrigerator to chill, then freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions.

Muscadine Pound Cake

For the cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding
½ cup melted butter
4 eggs
1 ¼ cup muscadine juice
For the Glaze
4 tablespoons muscadine juice
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Add the cake mix, pudding, butter, eggs and 1 1/4 cup muscadine juice to large bowl and beat for 4 minutes.
Pour batter into well-greased and floured Bundt pan.
Bake 40-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool slightly, turn out while still warm.

To prepare glaze combine 4 tablespoons muscadine juice and 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar together in small bowl. Poke tiny holes into cake with a toothpick to allow glaze to seep in and glaze.

Scuppernong Grape Hull Pie

(This recipe was featured in Our State magazine, it is Nancie McDermott’s)
Pastry for a 9-inch double-crust
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 cups muscadine or scuppernong grapes, about 2 pounds, rinsed
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust, leaving a 1-inch
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt, and stir with a fork to mix well. Set out a medium bowl and a medium saucepan.
Squeeze the grapes over the saucepan, dropping the pulpy, seed-filled grapes into the pan and placing their thick, sturdy skins, or hulls, into the bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and cook the grape pulp until softened and shiny, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked grape pulp to a strainer and place it over the bowl of grape hulls. Press the grapes through the strainer, pushing the softened pulp into the pan with the hulls while extracting the large, round seeds. Use the back of a large spoon to get as much pulp as possible. Discard the seeds, and transfer the hulls and pulp back to the saucepan. Cook them over medium heat to soften the hulls, about 5 minutes more.
Add the sugar mixture and lemon juice to the grapes and stir to mix everything well.
Pour the filling into the piecrust. Sprinkle the small bits of butter over the grape filling, distributing it evenly. Wet the rim of the bottom piecrust to help seal it.
Roll the remaining dough into a 10-inch circle and cover the filling. Trim away the extra pastry extending beyond the rim of the pie pan. Crimp the edges firmly, or press them down with the back of a fork, working your way around the edge of the pie to seal the crust well. Use a sharp knife to cut 8 slits in the top crust, to allow steam to escape and fruit juices to bubble up as the pie cooks.
Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet to capture any drips, and place it on the lower shelf of the 400-degree oven. Bake 10 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees.
Bake until the crust is a handsome, golden brown and the grape juices are bubbling up through the crust, about 40 to 50 minutes more. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9-inch double-crust pie.

Muscadine Jelly

5 pounds of firm muscadines
3 ½ ounces of lemon juice
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Wash 5 pounds of firm muscadines. Simmer the grapes in a pot with 3 1/2 cups of water, stirring occasionally, until they soften and give up their juice, about an hour.
Empty the pot through a coarse-mesh strainer into a large bowl, then use a spoon to force the grapes through the sieve. Discard any remaining solids. Pour the reserved liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl, again discarding the solids.
Put the reserved juice (about 3 cups), into a pot along with 3 1/2 ounces of lemon juice and 1 cup of sugar. Bring it to a boil and cook until the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of pectin (any store-bought kind will do) and 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Slowly whisk the pectin blend into the juice. With the pot over high heat, stir often while the pectin activates and the mixture thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. The jelly should be thick but still fluid (it will set as it cools). Grapes’ natural pectin content varies, notes Conrad, so if the jelly is too watery, add another tablespoon of the 1:1 pectin/sugar mix and cook for 5 more minutes. Repeat until it gels.
Season lightly with salt to fill out the flavor.
Transfer the jelly to two pint-sized containers and cool. Covered and refrigerated, it will last a month once opened. If you prefer shelf-stable jelly, seal the hot mixture in two jars using a water-bath technique.