Baking the Perfect Concord Grape Pie
Monday, September 27th, 2010
As autumn approaches, you wake up each morning hoping the temperature has dipped five, ten or 15 degrees lower so you can swap tank tops for sweaters and ice pops for hot chocolate. Since you prefer your clothes without sweat and Popsicle stains, this is a welcome exchange. Sadly, you've got a few weeks of 75 degree days left before cool weather sets in. In the meantime, however, there’s no use suppressing your fall spirit. If anything, the final weeks of summer can be used in preparation for fall — to set the tone for what may be your coolest season yet. That’s why you've taken up pie-baking.
Pie is a dessert for all seasons, yet there’s something about pie in the late fall that’s especially comforting. So what if your mom’s turkey is extra dry this year? Your Concord grape pie will make up for it. No matter if you’re competing for the Best Thanksgiving Chef title or you just need something to do on a Sunday, pie-baking is a practical autumnal skill akin to pumpkin carving and leaf raking. Everybody should know how to do it.
We’ve chosen Concord grapes (the seeded ones that fall out of their skins when you bite them and whose tartness reminds us of red wine) mostly because they’re delicious, but also because they’re in season at the Union Square Greenmarket. If all goes well, your pie filling will taste like grape jam, only less sweet and more tart and earthy.
Some pies have perfectly molded edges, steam escaping from the top and yield a gooey-yet-solid piece. But unless you've spent years baking pies, your pie will look nothing like them. At worst, your filling-to-crust ratio might be a little off, causing the insides to obscure the upper crust. But even if it’s not stunning, it’s sure to be scrumptious in an “every baby is beautiful” way.
Recipe courtesy of Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook (Doubleday, 1965).
Makes one (8" or 9") two-crust pie.
For the Crust:
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
4-5 tablespoons cold water
For the Filling:
2 containers of Concord grapes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Start by washing the grapes and removing their skins by pinching at the stem (they should slide right out). Keep the skins for later. Do your best to remove seeds with a toothpick or clean fingers. Put the grape pulp in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes or until pulp is soft and viscous. Then put the hot pulp through a strainer or food mill, catching any stray seeds. Mix pulp with the skins, and then stir in sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Fold in the shortening until the mixture is smooth. Add in water one tablespoon at a time, tossing the mixture gently and stirring with a fork. The dough should be firm but not sticky.
Shape the dough into two equally sized balls, then roll one of them flat on a floured surface. Make a circle (about 1/4 inch thick) that covers the surface of the pie dish, leaving enough room for the filling. Then spoon the filling on top of the crust, adding the bulk of it to the center of the dish. Flatten the remaining dough ball and cut out 1/2 inch wide strips to span the length of the pan, saving the longest strips for the center. Place a few strips in the opposite direction, creating a lattice pie top. Press firmly all around to seal strips to the rim of the dish. Flute the edges with a fork.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until crust is lightly golden. Serve hot or cold.
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