Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Concord Grape Pie

After spending a few hours harvesting Mr. Wheeler's garden, we took home quite the bounty of fruits and vegetables, but had an especially large box full of concord grapes. Now concord grapes are delicious on their own, but I personally hate eating them because of their seeds. To me, they are hands down the best grapes for jam. Paul and I had already been planning to make a big batch of jam with them, but when we selected a recipe we realized we had enough grapes to make a quadruple batch, approximately 3 gallons of jam, with another couple quarts of fresh grapes leftover.

What to do with all those extra grapes?

That's when a very special memory that I had subconsciously tucked away somewhere in the deep trenches of my brain suddenly came to the forefront. When I was four months pregnant with Matthew, I attended a simple gathering at the home of a friend in Erie. Although Paul and I had been living in Erie for about a year, we still had not really made any close friendships. My boss at the time had tried to connect me with various families in the area and that was how I somehow got on the invite list for this particular party. Regardless, while snacking on zucchini bread and chicken salad, I struck up a conversation with a very friendly, bubbly, and intelligent woman named Jessica who was there with her husband Jesse. They had been married the year before me and Paul and, as I learned through our conversation, had a daughter named Sophie who was almost 18 months old. Jessica was so very excited to see that I was expecting and we chatted endlessly about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. I felt a great connection with her immediately but did not even think to get her number at the time.

Thankfully, Jessica's husband Jesse visited my office on business later the next week and I took the opportunity to slip him a note that I had quickly and rather sloppily written out with my name and cell phone number on it. I instructed him to give it to his lovely wife and have her call me.

A few days later, she did.

Jessica invited me to attend the annual Halloween night at the local zoo with her and Sophie. Jesse had to work that night and she really did not want to attend alone. I thought it would be fun especially since I really had nothing going on since Paul was also working late that night. We met up at the very crowded event and had a wonderful time walking baby Sophie through the trick-or-treat lines ensconced in various locations around the dark zoo with what seemed about half of Erie's other youngsters. When Sophie had tuckered out from all the walking and candy collecting, Jessica invited me to come to their apartment to continue our conversation. I figured that Paul wasn't going to be home for another two hours, so I agreed.

At her apartment, I left my cell phone in the car - I still am terrible about keeping it on my person - and headed inside where Jessica and Sophie served me my very first slice of grape pie. I did not even know you could make grapes into pie! But then again, I had never lived anywhere where concord grapes, the plump, juicy, ultra-sweet grapes used to make jam, jelly, and Welch's grape juice grew so abundantly. That pie was a revelation. At first, I wasn't sure what I would think of grapes in a pie, but it was pretty fantastic. Jessica gave me a slice to take home to Paul who, unbeknownst to me, had come home early only to find our home totally dark and me missing. He had proceeded to drive all over the city, calling my cell phone over and over but receiving no answer since I had left it sitting in my car. He was filing a missing person's report with the police when I finally walked in. Paul sure wasn't happy with me, but that slice of pie served as a nice peace offering.

Through the years, Jessica has remained one of my dearest friends. From that first meeting, we have watched our families grow and now have eight children between us. Jessica was one of the first people to hold three out of my four children, and I'm certain if there wasn't 1,500 miles between us she would have been at the hospital shortly after Daniel was born as well. Our children are close friends with one another and my kids often think of Sophie, Bella, Maddie, and Francis more as cousins than friends. She and Jesse are the godparents of our daughter Emma and continue to have a wonderful, impactful presence in her life even with the distance between us. Our family misses seeing them on a regular basis, but I know that we will always remain close. They are family to us!

So, when debating what to make with all those concord grapes, I texted Jessica and asked for her recipe for that delicious grape pie because that recipe is more than just a list of instructions and ingredients to me. Rather, it's a precious memory of the day I met one of my best friends.

Concord Grape Pie
adapted slightly from Jessica's recipe

1 recipe or your favorite double crust pie dough prepared
1 1/2 lbs of Concord grapes (after removing from stems)
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (6.0 oz) sugar
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

On a lightly floured work surface, roll 1 half of a double crust pie dough into a 15-inch round. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing it into the edges. Trim to a 1-inch overhang all around. Cover with plastic wrap; chill pie shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Repeat process for rolling out dough for the top crust. Transfer to a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Wash grapes and discard any that are under-ripe, damaged and blemished.

Remove the skins from the grapes by pressing them between your thumb and forefinger. Put the skinless grapes in a medium saucepan. Reserve the skins in a small bowl.

Gently mash the grape pulp in the medium saucepan to release their juice. Cook over medium low heat until grapes come to a full boil, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Press the grapes through a fine sieve and discard the pits.

In a heavy bottomed pot: combine the grape pulp, grape peels and all the remaining ingredients . (You’ll have about 1 1/3 cups of pulp – add everything else and you’ll have about 2 cups) Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring continually until the filling is slightly thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven with a pizza stone or baking sheet on it.

Transfer the cooked filling to the prepared pie shell. Moisten the edges of the pie crust with water and attach the top crust, crimping the edges to seal the crust.

Cut six small slits in the crust to act as vents. Place pie on the pizza stone, protect the edges with a pie ring, and bake for 30 minutes at 400° F and then reduce heat to 375° F and bake an additional 25-30 minutes until the filling is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack for at least 3 hours before cutting.

1 comment:

  1. This is much easier than my Grandma did. She actually cut the seeds out, grape by grape! Thank you. I'll have to try this. God bless you, Monica!