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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grape Pie

I've never had one of the world-famous Naples, NY Concord Grape Pies, so for all I know, I am suggesting absolute heresy here and have made a pie that tastes like mud compared to theirs.  But I think my attempt has turned out nicely.

All the recipes for Grape Pie I could find a) call for Concord grapes and b) call for peeling every one of those little boogers even though the peels go into the filling.  Oh hell no.  I did some reading on the interwebs trying to puzzle out why on earth anyone would want to be peel multiple pounds of grapes to make pie and the best I can figure is that 1) Concord grapes have seeds and they must be peeled in order to cook the pulp enough to deseed them without losing the color, flavor and volume of the peels (which would get sieved out with the seeds if left in the cooked mixture) and possibly 2) that the peels, when cooked, might impart a bitter flavor to the filling. 

Fortunately, I am cursed/blessed with a lack of actual Concord grapes at my local grocery and instead have "seedless black" grapes ("Midnight Beauty" variety).  As they are seedless, I have solved the first concern.  As I am willing to gamble a bit and they are ultra-sweet, I have dispensed with the second concern.  Awesome.

Depending on your variety of grape, how sweet they are and personal preference, you may want more or less sugar than what I used.  After simmering the whole but lightly crushed grapes for a bit to release their juices, I started with 1/2 cup sugar and added a few tbsp at a time until I reached a sweetness level I was pleased with.  I thickened with a combination of flour and cornstarch, adding a bit extra cornstarch at the last minute when the filling looked a bit runny.  To incorporate it nicely, I made a slurry with red wine (happened to have an open bottle) rather than the customary lemon juice.  I don't think I'd crack a bottle just for this purpose again, but it worked out nicely I think.  The grapes still had a bit of tartness and I didn't think it necessary to add to that flavor dimension with lemon while the wine did enhance the grapey-ness of the pie. 

The interwebs also suggested various ways to prepare the filling in advance of actual pie-making, as the residents of Naples, NY do (I mean, if you're gonna peel a bazillion pounds of grapes one by one, you might as well make it worth your while and save some of this stuff up).  One suggestion was to can the filling like jam.  Another was to freeze the filling in pie plates (without a crust), then slip the frozen pie-shaped jam disk into a fresh crust and bake as usual when you're ready.  I can't vouch for either of this techniques personally, but if you experiment, let me know how it goes!

Grape Pie
Makes 1 9" pie

4 cups seedless black grapes (about 2 lbs.)
1 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp red wine
Pastry for a double crust pie.

Stem grapes and crush lightly with a potato masher or your hands.  Simmer grapes in a heavy pot about 10 minutes, covered.  Use a potato masher to crush the grapes more, until there are no more visible whole grapes. 

Stir in sugar starting with 1/2 cup and adding gradually, tasting as you go.  Whisk in flour.  Whisk cornstarch into red wine and stir the slurry into the filling.  Pour filling into a prepared pie crust, top with the second crust and cut slits.  Bake at 400F for 45-50 minutes. Pin It

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