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Outer Banks Folklore

The Mystery of the Mother Vineyard

Mother Vineyard in Roanoke Island is home to the oldest known grapevine in the United States. This four-hundred year old Scuppernong mother vine has a trunk two feet thick and once stretched one-half an acre. Sir Walter Raleigh found this vine here in the Outer Banks and sent back reports that the vines "covered every shrub and climbed the tops of high cedars". That is a lot of grapevine! The Scuppernong is a variety of the muscadine grape and is the first grape actively cultivated in the United States. These sweet muscadines are a bronze-green color and have very thick bitter outside hulls, while the inside is sweet and juicy. Scuppernong grapes are extraordinarily high in antioxidants and are great for your cardiovascular health.

The mystery lies in who set these vines. The vines are set equal distances from each other, obviously planned and well taken care of since they were planted. Everyone agrees that these vines were set by advanced cultivators, who even used scaffolds to hold the vines but who were these advanced farmers? Algonquian Indians were native to this area and indeed grew tobacco and potatoes and were quite sophisticated in their farming methods. Colonists reported that the Indians made and enjoyed wine. Still the question arises - where did the original vines come from?

Interestingly enough, a female deckhand on the ferry says her grandmother claims to have traveled between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island on a homemade bridge of grapevines. Now that would be a lot of grapevines and a tall tale at that!

Today, the muscadine grows grows wild in North Carolina backyards and hangs densely from the trees in our forests. The Mother Vine is on private property and is not so very easy to find. If you drive north from Manteo on 1-64, Mother Vineyard Road is about three-fourths of a mile past the city limits. Make a right on Mother Vineyard Road and very quickly you will come up on a sharp right turn where the sound is. A few hundred feet past that sharp turn on the left, you can see the 400 year old Mother Vineyard. As this is private property, watch your Ps and Qs careful not to trespass by keeping on the road.

For more information on The Mother Vineyard Mystery, click here to visit the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce website.

Eating Scuppernongs Scuppernongs have thick skins and seeds. To eat a scuppernong, first... hold the grape stem side up and squeeze the grape. The juicy inside will squirt into your mouth. Be careful to spit out the seeds and don't chew the skin as it is bitter. Then again there is the tall tale that suggests if you swallow the seeds a grape vine will grow in your tummy.

Storing Your Scuppernongs
Keep the grapes in a covered shallow container in the refrigerator for best results. Wash them just before use. The Scuppernongs should keep for a week if they are healthy when gathered.

Nutritional Information
Scuppernongs are high in Vitamin C and contain potassium, Vitamin B, and trace minerals. They are naturally low in sodium and free of fat and cholesterol. When measuring, 2 cups of scuppernongs equals 3/4 pound.

Scuppernong Juice
Crush thoroughly 3 pounds (about 9 cups or 4 pints) fully ripe scuppernongs.
Add 1 cups water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Strain through jelly bag or cheese cloth.
Refrigerate and serve, or use in recipes that follow.

Scuppernong Jelly
Measure 7 cups sugar and set aside.
Put 4 cups scuppernong juice and 2 tsp. lemon juice in large saucepan.
Mix in 1 box Sure-Jell. Bring to a boil stirring constantly.
Add sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat.
Skim off foam with metal spoon.
Pour at once into prepared jars. Yield: 8 half pints.

Wine Jelly
3 cups sugar
2 cups dry red North Carolina wine
1 (3-ounce) package liquid pectin
Combine sugar and wine in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.
Cook over medium heat; stir until sugar dissolves (do not boil).
Remove from heat, stir in pectin.
Skim off foam with metal spoon.
Quickly pour hot jelly into sterilized jars, cover and process. Yield: 4 half pints.

Scuppernong Grape Butter
5 pounds scuppernong grapes
5 cups sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. ground mace
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Wash grapes; drain and remove stems. Plunge grapes into rapidly boiling water to cover; boil 2 minutes. Drain well.
Slip off grape skins and grind or chop skins finely, reserving pulp; set aside.
Place pulp in a heavy saucepan; cook over medium heat 10 minutes or until seeds begin to separate from pulp. Press pulp through a sieve to remove seeds; discard seeds.
Return pulp to saucepan; add reserved skins and remaining ingredients.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, 30 minutes or until mixture thickens.
Quickly ladle butter into hot sterilized jars, leaving -inch headspace.
Cover at once with metal lids and screw bands tight. Process in boiling water bath 5 minutes. Yield: 8 half pints.

Scuppernong Grape Ice
2/3 cup sugar
1 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup fresh scuppernong grape juice or sparkling scuppernong grape juice
Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
Boil 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, stirring well. Cool.
Pour juice mixture into a flat tray or pan.
Freeze until mixture reaches consistency of a sherbet, stirring occasionally during freezing.
Scoop into sherbet dishes, and serve. Yield: about 1 quart.

Scuppernong Ice Cream
3 cups sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 quart light cream
2 cups chilled scuppernong juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
Combine sugar, whipping cream and light cream in a large mixing bowl
beat on medium speed of electric mixer 1 minute or until sugar dissolves.
Add juices and beat well.
Pour mixture into 1-gallon size freezer can.
Freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Grape Hull Pie
5 cups muscadine grapes, rinsed
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. Grated orange rind
pastry for 2-crust pie
2 tbs. margarine
Separate pulp from skins.Set skins aside.
Boil pulp until seeds loosen, then press through a sieve to separate pulp from seeds.
Cook pulp with skins until tender.
add sugar, flour, lemon juice, and orange rind. Mix well.
Put in pastry-lined 9-inch pie plate. Top with margarine.
Add top pastry. Seal edges and slit top.
Bake at 400 degrees about 40 minutes.

Muscadine "Dump Cake"
1 cup prepared grapes
1/2 stick butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
To prepare grapes, remove pulp; cook pulp until seeds loosen, then press through sieve to remove seeds. Add pulp to skins and cook until tender. Add sugar to taste, some grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of apple pie spice.
Melt butter in glass pie plate. Mix flour, sugar and milk in another bowl. Pour flour mixture over butter. Carefully pour prepared grapes over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Do not open oven until baking time is up. Cake should be brown on top. Yield: 8 servings.

Grape Juice Sherbet Floats
1 quart pineapple or lime sherbet
2 cups fresh strawberries or seasonal fruit
fresh or sparkling scuppernong grape juice
Spoon sherbet equally into 4 stemmed glasses.
Top each with 1/2 cup sliced fruit.
Just before serving, pour several tablespoons grape juice over the top. Yield: 4 servings.

Mulled Muscadine Cider
1 quart muscadine grape juice
Dash of ground allspice
2 (4-inch) sticks cinnamon
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.
Serve warm. Yield: 8 half-cup servings.

Cheddar, Crab & Wine Fondue
6 oz. crabmeat, fresh, frozen or canned
20 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tbs. flour, all purpose
3/4 cup Scuppernong, Riesling, or other sweet white wine
1/8 tsp. caraway seeds
Drain crabmeat well and flake.
Toss together cheese and flour.
In a saucepan, heat wine until bubbles rise.
Over low heat, add cheese, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until cheese is melted.
Add caraway seeds and crabmeat. Transfer to a fondue pot.
Serve with French bread cubes or vegetables for dipping. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

Sweet & Sour Glaze
2 cups muscadine jelly
2 tbs. prepared mustard
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to desired consistency.
Use as a glaze to baste ham, chicken, fish or vegetables, or serve as a sauce.

Recipes courtesy of North Carolina Grape Council & NCDA&CS

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For more great Outer Banks folklore be sure to check out the The Legend of Hatteras Jack.

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