Sunday, September 16, 2007

if it's fall, it must be time for grape pie

We went to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning. I love going to the market this time of year, when I know the produce is genuinely grown by local folks instead of being shipped here from somewhere else. I was mainly looking for tomatoes, which I love more than any other seasonal produce. I wanted big, red tomatoes to slice thick and eat with my dinner, and I also wanted more of the heirloom cherry tomatoes we bought last week. The heirloom tomatoes are mottled purple and green, and very flavorful, with none of the acidic taste so characteristic of most tomatoes. Happily, I found all the tomatoes I wanted.

I noticed a dealer with a peck basket full of Concord grapes. He was selling them for a dollar a pint, but I bought everything he had for eight dollars, at Julie's encouragement. "We don't want to do grapes this weekend, do we?" I asked her. "Yes, we do," was her quick reply. As the dealer was bagging the grapes for me, an older woman with a strong eastern European accent asked me what I planned to make with them all. "I'm going to make grape pie filling," I said. "Have you ever had it?" Most people have never tasted Concord grape pie, but it is an old family favorite at our house. My mother used to make it once in a while, and my understanding is that the recipe was passed down from my dad's Grandma George - Carrie Krear Gould George, whose father was killed in the waning days of the Civil War.

When we lived in our house on Denison, Ben planted grape vines along the chain-link fence at the back of our yard. Before too many years had passed, we were harvesting enough grapes each September to make several pies. Eventually, it was quite a production. Ben and Tom would harvest grapes and put them in five-gallon pails, which they would flood with water to drive off at least some of the assorted critters. Julie and I had our assembly line set up in the kitchen where we would pick the grapes from the stems and wash them, then skin and boil them until the seeds cooked free. Then we would just add sugar and freeze the grapes until I was ready to bake them into a pie. Some years we froze fifteen or twenty bags of grapes. We ate most of the pies ourselves, but they were also in great demand at family gatherings and at our workplaces. As I said, most people had never tasted grape pie before, but became fans once they tried it.

If you want to make a Concord grape pie yourself, I include my recipe. I warn you, although it is not difficult, it is quite labor-intensive. I think if you try it, though, it will become one of your favorites, too.

Concord Grape Pie

4 very full cups Concord grapes, removed from stems, and well-rinsed
1 shallow cup sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsps. butter

Begin with a pan and a bowl, set side by side. Each washed grape must be squeezed above the pan, so that the pulp and seeds fall into the pan, then the skins are dropped into the bowl, which is set aside. The pulp and seeds should be boiled on a low flame until the pulp has completely broken down and all the seeds have floated free.

Pour the hot grape pulp into a strainer above the bowl of grape skins. Force the pulp through the strainer, and onto the skins, leaving only the seeds in the strainer - these are then discarded. Dissolve the sugar in the hot grape mixture.* Add the flour, salt, and lemon peel, and mix well. Pour mixture into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot small pieces of butter over pie filling, then cover with second layer of pie crust - I find a lattice is very attractive on this pie. Alternately, a streusel topping works very well on this pie in place of the upper crust.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling starts to bubble. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. You'll thank me if you do.

*This is the point where I pour the mixture in a bag and put it in the freezer. You can do that, too, if you want to.


tom said...

Oh man, my mouth is watering just thinking about grape pie, and Kristy and I are already conspiring to bake one before long. This is truly a great recipe and one of the staples of my childhood.

Willow said...

Our state lost their entire crop of concord grapes this summer, not a one to be had anywhere. I really miss them!

anne mancine said...

T - Good luck with that. You know I always use those ready-made pie crusts, so the rest is easy.

Willow - Our summer here in Ohio consisted of weeks of drought followed by day after day of pouring rain. Then the drought would start all over again. I don't know if that is good or bad for crops, but the grapes I found were very nice. Wish I could send you some!

Julie said...

i LOVE processing the grapes for pie filling! at least, the parts i know how to do. there's something really satisfying about actually making something from scratch, especially when you grow the produce yourself in your own backyard.

although, i must say, there was a certain advantage to buying them from that guy at the market, who had to harvest them himself, and deal with the yellowjackets and earwigs (shudder)!!

Kristy said...

I kid you not, I just bought a farmstand out of their concord grapes. If all goes well, we'll be making pies in time to let Sachiko (our volunteer guide in Tokyo who is coming to Chicago and will be staying with us) in on the fall tradition too!

I always find it so interesting the way food transcends generations.

anne mancine said...

Jules - Remember all the little ants that used to ride in on the grapes, as well? After a while, we just gave up trying to kill them all.

Kristy - I am so excited that you and Tom are making grape pie. Be sure and let us know how it turns out.

Kristy said...

When we made them a few years ago, we had some lattice issues. I think I'll try both lattice and streudel toppings this year. Other than being much easier than pie lattice to do, it sounds soooo tasty. omg.

anne mancine said...

Ooh, ooh, I know a really easy way to do lattice. I will show you the next time you are here.