If I told you that this pie tastes exactly like the first cube of grape-flavored bubblegum you unfolded from waxy paper and stuffed in your grade school-sized mouth, barely able to contain its spill of citric acid and high fructose corn syrup “juices,” would that go against every fresh, seasonal, farm-to-table objective that this blog (and this pie) strives to attain? Probably. But it sort of does. And when baked with an open-design top crust, it’s bubblicious, too.
The ironic secret to this is fresh, upstate New York concord grapes, now in season. Eaten fresh, these grapes have a more crisp, grassy bite. But when cooked with sugar and a bit of apples to round out the flavor, they’re unmistakably distinct, grapity-grape sweet.
This was my first time baking concord grapes in a pie, and the apples came into play as a mistake. I just didn’t have enough grapes — I’d bought them on a whim, not knowing exactly what I’d make of them — to fill a 9-inch pie. So, with a nod to the Welch juice flavors of yesteryear, I devised this grape-apple pie. Grapple pie? Grapity-apple double trouble yum bubbly bubble pie? I give up; it is what it is.
I was on a high of pie baking as of late, after my third-place finish at Enid’s apple pie contest. So when desserts were requested for a backyard pig roast I attended last week, I was immediately pinned for the pies. If you haven’t noticed this, I hate to make the same pie twice; nor the same ice cream flavor (unless it’s vanilla); nor the same chili, or pizza. (This could go on for a while.) Good thing I can still find some recipe-inspiring ingredient at the Greenmarket whenever I take my Saturday stroll through. This time it was the concord grapes.
From the outcome of this pie, it looks like I could get better acquainted with them still. While they tasted delicious, and cooked to a beautiful, deep red-purple, I didn’t bother to seed the individual grapes. Therefore, everyone got a little crunch of seed with every bite. Now, I hardly mind this myself, but I sense it’s not the optimum pie-eating experience. If anyone has any suggestions on how best to remove those tiny little seeds beforehand — I’m guessing you just get in there with a paring knife and squish each little bugger pretty well in the process — please fire away.
In the meantime, here’s my recipe for a grapeskin and seed-included, minimally sweetened, au naturel grape and apple pie.
Concord Grape & Apple Pie
(makes one 9-inch pie)
for the filling
3-4 cups concord grapes
3 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 3 medium-sized ones)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of nutmeg (optional)
for the crust
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water
Make the crust: Combine the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, your fingers or a food processor, cut the butter into the flour. If using the food processor, pulse several few times until the pieces of butter are no larger than a pea. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add water one tablespoon at a time and stop when the dough is malleable enough to form a ball. (If using food processor, slowly add water one tablespoon at a time to the mixture while pulsing it just until a ball is formed). Break into two balls. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. (Crust can be made several hours beforehand.)
In a large bowl, combine the grapes and sliced apples with the sugar, lemon juice and optional nutmeg. Roll one pastry ball out and transfer to the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan. Fill with the fruit. Roll out top crust and, if desired, cut out (apple and grape-shaped!) designs. Crimp edges. (Optional: Brush top of pie with egg wash, milk or cream and/or sprinkle it with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
(for one 9-inch pie)
1 bunch concord grapes (from the Greenmarket): $2.00
3 apples (from a bag of 8 from the Greenmarket): $0.75
1/2 lemon: $0.17
1 1/2 sticks butter: $2. 25
2 1/4 cups flour: $0.75
1/4 cups sugar, optional nutmeg: $0.30
(for one 9-inch pie, or 8 servings)
Six brownie points: Probably the least affixed I’ve ever affixed to a pie. This one’s surprisingly healthy tally owes to its barely seasoned apple and grape filling. The minimal use of sugar seems to work as these concord grapes are kind of a powerhouse of flavor. Plus, they’re packed with antioxidants, especially with the skins left on.
Seven maple leave: What’s not green about a pie with local, seasonal fruit? Okay, a spurt of lemon, some sugar perhaps, but its whole raison d’etre was seasonality. Gosh, I’m going to miss grapes once they’re out.