When I was young(er), we had a vine in our backyard that produced fruit my mother called ‘wine grapes’. My friends and I would sit on the lawn in early Fall and eat bunches of these distinctive purple gems off the vine and convince ourselves that we were getting drunk. At the end of the day, everybody would go home feeling both relieved and disappointed that our grape consumption had had no boozy effect on us at all.
It took me a few years to realize that a) “wine grapes” were concord grapes and b) there were some substantial gaps in my understanding of how people get drunk.
Concord grapes are used for lots of things including kosher wine where they have been described by Wine Spectator as having a “foxy” note (as in, “reminds me of the smell of an old fur coat”). Hmmm. I think I’ll pass on that. Thankfully, these grapes redeem themselves when they are transformed into yummier things like jelly, juice and …. Concord Grape Pie!
The unique mellow flavour of Concord Grape Pie lies somewhere between a cherry and a blueberry pie with none of the tartness of the uncooked grape. I only discovered this pie recently, which is an embarrassing thing to admit because it’s been around for decades. On top of that, Grape Pie is a big part of the grape harvesting tradition … and I live right next door to the birthplace of Ontario’s wine industry so I really have no excuse for not knowing about it!
This recipe is adapted from Saveur magazine which reprinted a recipe from the Grape Pie Queen of Naples, New York, Irene Bouchard. Got all that? Irene’s recipe calls for combining the grape skins with the cooked pulp, cooling the mixture, adding the sugar and thickener and filling the pie shell. Now, normally I would never mess with a recipe from someone called the Grape Pie Queen but I guess my grapes must have been extra juicy because this filling was really soupy. Images of a ‘soggy bottom’ pie (my personal nightmare) flashed before me. I needed a way to thicken the mixture before it hit the pie shell so I switched out the cornstarch for ClearJel, and gently heated the mixture back up on the stovetop. It thickened up beautifully and eliminated the risk of the dreaded soggy …. don’t make me say it again.
Why ClearJel over cornstarch? In a nutshell (even though I’m not very good at saying anything in a nutshell), while ClearJel is a cornstarch derivative, it is clear not cloudy, it doesn’t leave that ‘starchy’ taste that I hate and it is stable enough that you can freeze your pie, before or after baking, and the filling won’t break down and become runny. All those things make it perfect for pie fillings, in my opinion.
Now, let’s get to the fun part … decorating! You can get all fancypants with this pie like I did here, or you can go easy on yourself and just use some pretty fall leaf cutters or maple leaf cutters of different sizes to create your top. Roll some balls of the dough for the grapes and you’re all set. A lattice design would also be lovely here with the grape filling bubbling through.
If you do want to make these grape leaves, you can find the stencils here. Just print them out on a piece of paper, cut them out, lay them on a rolled out, very cold piece of pastry (ink side up) and use a very sharp knife or x-acto knife to trace your leaves. You can use a tool like this to detail the leaves but any sharp knife will do the trick. If the pastry starts to snag or tear while you’re cutting the leaves, pop the sheet of pastry back into the fridge for a few minutes and you should be good to go again.
We ate the pie all on its own but it would be amazing with a little french vanilla ice cream (or how about peanut butter ice cream for the ultimate PB&J experience?). Now that concord grapes and I are on a first name basis, I may just have to check out one of the festivals dedicated to singing its praises. Just don’t ask me to raise a glass. I’d like to think that my concord grape binges are a thing of the past.
Fall Harvest Concord Grape Pie
Juicy concord grapes are the star of this seasonal pie with a buttery, flaky crust. Adapted from Saveur Magazine
- 1 batch All-butter Pie Pastry
- 900 g concord grapes stemmed
- 150 g sugar
- 30 g ClearJel
- 1 dash salt
- 1 whole egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
To make the pie pastry:
Prepare the dough as directed. Roll out one disc of dough to a 10-inch circle. Transfer and fit the dough into a 8-inch pie pan and trim to a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Tuck the excess neatly under the lip of the pie plate. Alternatively, crimp the edges with a fork and trim. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator while you make the filling.
To make the filling:
Over a medium sized pot, squeeze the grapes to separate the skin from the pulp. Place the skins in a separate bowl and set aside.
Simmer the pulp over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 8–10 minutes, until the seeds separate and the pulp breaks down. Remove from heat. Place a fine sieve over the bowl of grape skins and strain the pulp from the pot into the bowl, using the back of a wooden spoon to push as much pulp as possible through the sieve. Discard the solids.
In a small bowl, toss the sugar, ClearJel and salt together. Add it to the grape mixture in the bowl and stir to combine.
Transfer the grape mixture back to the pot. On a medium-low heat stir the mixture until it bubbles and thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Set the mixture aside to cool.
To make the decorations and assemble:
Roll out the second disc of dough to a 10-inch circle. Using a 2-inch leaf cookie cutter, cut 16-18 leaves for the border of the pie and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Use the grape leaf stencils (see notes below) or a variety of leaf cutters in varying sizes to cut as many leaves as you can with the remaining dough. If necessary, gather together your scraps and roll them out again to cut more leaves. The number of leaves you will have will depend on the size of cutters you use. If you wish, use leftover scraps of dough to roll 30-40 small balls of dough in varying sizes to create your grapes. Add the leaves and the grapes to the cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, beat the whole egg with the water. Remove your lined pie plate from the refrigerator and fill it with the cooled grape mixture. Place the 2-inch leaves in various directions around the edge of the pie. Place your grape leaves decoratively over the pie filling, being sure to overlap the border leaves slightly. Place the grape balls in bunches over the leaves in a reverse pyramid shape. Return the pie to the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425° F. and place a cookie shee on the lower middle rack of the oven to catch any drips.
Brush the pie gently with some of the remaining egg wash. Transfer the pie to the pre-heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375°F. Bake for another 50-60 minutes until the pie is golden brown and the filling is bubbling up over the edges. Let the pie cool for at least 2 hours before serving to ensure it is completely set.
- To give your leaves a realistic look, bend and arch them as you place them on the pie.
- Click here for the grape leaf stencils