Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Concord Grape Pie Recipe

This is a relatively basic recipe, but it seems little known in Missouri. But now that Missouri’s grape industry is such big guns, it’s time we learned how to make grape pies.

Concord grape pies are delicious and deserve to be more common than they are, and making this pie will prove it to you. (I’m still groovin’ on our beautiful, glorious cornucopia of Ohio Concords!)

I’ve mentioned this recipe before, and I’ve told you the story of how I started making it back in college. It was a labor of love!

I learned how to make it the hard way. The biggest deal with cooking with Concords is processing them—getting the seeds out! (Most people don’t care to eat a crunchy pie!)

Below, I tell you how to process the grapes in record time. What I usually do is buy a big batch of grapes at once—they’re only in season for a short while. I measure them out into preset quantities (usually 3 cups), process, put into freezer zip-bags, squeeze the air out, and freeze flat so it doesn’t take them long to thaw. Grape pies are easy to make once you’ve processed the grapes!

My recipe is not groundbreaking; it’s based on a recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (1953, p. 308) (a delightful facsimile edition of the vintage 1953 book was recently published); plus, I’ve altered it per advice I got from my friend’s mother, and I’ve even made a few modifications myself.

And sure, you can try flour or tapioca as alternative thickeners, but good luck with that. I’ve found corn starch, and plenty of it, works the best.

P.S. Don’t forget to have some vanilla ice cream around so you can serve it à la mode!

Concord Grape Pie

3 cups of Concord grapes, including skins, processed to remove seeds (see below)
1 cup sugar
dash salt
dash nutmeg
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 rounded tablespoons corn starch
pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring grape pulp and skins to a boil and turn off heat; stir in salt, nutmeg, and lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, add a ladleful of this mixture to the corn starch and stir to dissolve the corn starch; add this to the rest of the grape mixture and stir to combine.

Roll out pie dough and arrange bottom crust in pie pan. Fill with grape mixture. Dot pieces of butter over the filling, and arrange top crust, cutting holes or slits in top. (Brush top with lightly beaten egg white and/or sprinkle with sugar, whatever you like to do.)

Bake at 400 degrees for up to 40 or 50 minutes. Keep an eye on it; if the edge starts to brown too fast, use a pie crust protector. Having a large piece of foil beneath the pie to catch potential drips is also a good idea.

It’s done when it’s done!

Processing Seeded Grapes (Such as Concords)

I have tried to deseed grapes any number of ways, from picking the seeds out by hand, one by one, with a pointy knife (not recommended!), to using a sieve . . . to my current method. It requires a food mill, which might seem a bit expensive, but you’ll be amazed at how many uses you’ll find for it.

Another note: consider your eventual use of the grapes. If you will want a very smooth consistency (say, for jam), you might chop or even purée the skins before adding them back in to the mix.

1. Pluck grapes from stems into measuring cup, measuring quantity desired for recipe use (I use 3-cup quantities for most recipes).

2. Rinse grapes in colander and wash your hands.

3. Get comfortable with two “bowls” in front of you: one a small saucepan, the other a plain bowl. Slip the skins from the grapes over the saucepan; the grape “guts” fall into the saucepan. Drop the empty skins into the other bowl. Do the whole batch. Listen to good music! I like jazz.

4. Over medium heat, cook the grape “guts,” stirring often, simmering until the pulp breaks down and seeds separate out.

5. Pour pulp, juice, and seeds into a food mill positioned over a bowl and process to remove seeds. (This is much easier than the alternative: trying to press the pulp through a wire strainer with a spoon. Or you can try using one of these old-style conical aluminum thingies—or on second thought, maybe not.)

6. Reunite reserved grape skins with processed pulp and juice; stir to combine.

7. Your processed grapes are now ready for your recipe—or you can freeze them at this point for convenient later use (I freeze each batch flat in a freezer zip-bag, squeezing all the air out).

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