Eaten out of hand, concord grapes have a very strong flavor. They taste like the grapiest grape you've ever eaten with hit of muskiness, like Welch's grape juice x 100. The bunches of fruit are deep purple (no, not the band) with a thin layer of white bloom that makes them glow in an otherworldly way when the sun shines on them, and they are almost always covered with bees at the farmer's market. I trust that those bees know what's good so I always pick up a basket or two this time of year.
Sometimes I make jam or jelly with them, but due to the ridiculous number of jars stacked up in my closet I decided that a baked good would be a better use of my grapes this time around. A quick search led me to a ton of pie recipes and as soon as I found out that the "Queen of Grape Pies" was a resident of upstate New York I knew that my grapes were destined to be the filling of a buttery crust.
I'll admit that I did not have faith in this pie. I thought the grape flavor would be too concentrated and too strong to enjoy by the slice. I brought it to a dinner party and warned everyone with very concerned face, "I'm not sure about this one guys. It might be totally weird. No really, it might taste funky and not a good way like this cheese we are eating right now."
Ruining a great party with a so-so dessert is one of my biggest dinner party fears so when we sliced it up after the meal I very gingerly took the first bite. I know it's totally dorky, but I was so relieved to declare it delicious! Thank goodness.
Concord Grape Pie
For the pie pictured in these photos I used a crust recipe from Cooks Illustrated, just to test my loyalty to my favorite pie crust. The Cooks Illustrated recipe is tender and delicious (it uses a bit of shortening), but since I like my other recipe just a bit more I've included it below. As always, feel free to sub in your favorite pie crust here. You'll need a double crust recipe.
For the Crust
This crust comes to you from Brandi Henderson of I made that! and The Pantry at Delancey where she teaches a class called "How to be a Pie Ninja" and she is not messing around. Brandi uses a technique called fraisage which creates long sheets of buttery flakes throughout the dough instead of little pockets of butter.
12 oz pastry flour
8 oz cold butter
4 oz ice water
1t apple cider vinegar
1. Mix the flour and salt together, then pour the whole lot on a large cutting board or countertop.
2. With a bench scraper, cut in half of the butter until it is the size of lima beans, then cut in the other half of the butter until it is the size of quarters. Add the apple cider vinegar to the water.
3. Using your fingers, flick the water on to the butter flour mixture and gently fold it in with your bench scraper. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart.
4. Then, you smear the butter into the dough. With the heel of your hand push a section of the dough down and away from you. Congratulations, you have just created a sheet of butter which is going to turn into delicious flaky crust. Scrape your sheet off of the board and place it in a bowl to the side. Repeat until you have worked through all of the dough, pushing it down and away from you in sections. Once you've gone through all of the dough gently remove it from the bowl, press it together, then split it in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill the dough for at least one hour before using. I like to chill mine overnight.
If this sounds confusing, check out the link above for a really helpful photo tutorial.
For the Filling
adapted from Martha Stewart and Saveur
The filling for this pie requires a bit of work, but it's the kind of work that takes more time than effort and don't worry, you won't have to individually seed the grapes. The tiniest hint of cinnamon in this recipe mellows and softens the strong grape flavor nicely.
3.5 ounces sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1.25 ounces cornstarch
1. Wash the grapes and using your fingers, pinch the grapes to slip off their skins. Reserve the skins in a large bowl. Place the pulp in a medium saucepan and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat or until the seeds start to separate from the pulp.
2. Strain the pulp mixture into the bowl with the skins, pressing the solids with the back of a spoon. Discard the seeds and set the mixture aside to cool completely.
3. In a small bowl whisk the sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and salt together then add it to the grape mixture. Use the larger amount of cornstarch if your grapes seem very liquid.
For the Topping
1 egg, beaten
A few teaspoons of coarse sugar like turbinado or light demerara
To Assemble and Bake
Preheat oven to 450º
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the dough into a 12'' circle about 1/8'' thick and place it into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the pie.
2. Roll out the other piece of dough into a 12'' circle about 1/8'' thick and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.
3. Fill the prepared pie shell with the grape mixture and top with the second crust, crimp the edges and cut a few vents. If you've got some extra time (and dough) on your hands you can also top the pie with a few small circles of dough arranged to resemble a bunch of grapes.
4. If the crust seems soft or warm, slide the whole pie into the fridge or freezer for about 15min before you bake it. When you are ready to bake brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg and sprinkle with a healthy dose of coarse sugar.
5. Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 15 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven, then lower the oven temp to 350º and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the crust is deep golden brown and the grape juices bubble. Cool the pie completely before serving.