Mulled Muscadines with Fried Crostini and Creamy Goat Cheese

This might seem like a dish that's dressed up and ready to get tipsy at a holiday party. Hey, it's turning cold and mulled wine has always been the answer, right?. By all means, serve this at your holiday season events (and of course, it's non-alcoholic, so your guests have all the satisfaction and none of the risk). But this dish is also a comfort food snack; the flavors of sweet, tangy, and buttery, on top of all creamy, juicy, and crunchy textures, hit the spot anytime. This recipe has a lot of ingredients. Go ahead and make it, even if you are missing a few of them. Really all you need to make this happen are the grapes, some citrus, some vinegar and sugar. Use the aromatics I have listed here as suggestions rather than commandments.   

1qt. muscadine pulp 
3 cups muscadine hulls (purple grapes will produce a more appealing color) 
2/3 cup sugar 
2/3 cup honey 
1/2 cup lemon juice 
1/2 cup orange juice 
zest of 2 lemons (removed with a vegetable peeler) 
zest of 2 oranges (removed with a vegetable peeler) 
1 sprig rosemary 
1/2 cup rice vinegar 
1 tsp. salt 

the following ingredients should be tied into a sachet 
1 cinnamon stick 
2 inch piece of ginger (sliced thin) 
5 cloves 
1 piece nutmeg 
2 bay leaves 
3 allspice berries 
15 black peppercorns 
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds   

Using your fingers, pop the muscadine pulp and juice from the hull. Do this over a bowl to make sure you’re not losing any of that sweet nectar. Reserve 3 cups of the hulls.  Place the grape pulp into a medium sauce pan and bring that up to a simmer. After about 5 minutes of simmering, you will see the pulp “nucleas” begin to break down. At that point transfer the pulp and juice to a colander with small holes (we call it a china cap). Push the pulp and juice through, leaving the seeds inside the strainer. Discard the seeds. Return the pulp and juice to the sauce pan. Add the hulls and all the remaining ingredients. Bring this up to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 minutes. Remove the rosemary stem and discard the sachet. Get a good taste of the grapes. If they are too tangy for your palate, add a little honey.   

To make the best crostini possible   Cut nice sourdough, ciabatta or baugette style bread into 1 inch thick slices. In a 10 inch saute pan, heat 1/4 cup grapeseed, sunflower, olive or any non-flavored oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add your slices of bread and fry on either side until beautifully golden brown. Season each side liberally with kosher salt. Top it as fast as you can with some super creamy goat or ricotta cheese and a big ole dollop of mulled muscadines. Eat it like it’s going out of style.      

Things I like to pair with muscadines   goat cheese, blue cheese, ricotta, pork, smoked meats of any kind (esp. bacon), poultry, cranberries, peanut butter, warm spices like nutmeg, allspice or cinnamon, honey, lemon or lime curd, buttermilk