NYC Greenmarkets 03 Oct 2009 03:01 pm
Concord grapes are in season here in the Northeast, and their aroma in the booths at the farmers markets is close to intoxicating. So when I was invited to participate in an apple pie bake-off at the McCarren Park Greenmarket in Greenpoint, I could only think whether I might be able to make an apple pie that incorporated these gorgeous purple grapes. I was sure I remembered somewhere seeing a recipe for Concord Grape & Apple Pie. On Epicurious? No. In one of my cookbooks? Nope. Finally I found it on Cathy Erway’s well-known home-cooking blog “Not Eating Out in New York.” Since this recipe seems to exist no where else, Cathy gets credit for inventing it. Score one for the home cooks!
As she describes, she grappled (grape-lled?) with the dilemma that concord grapes have seeds. Not wanting the tedium of de-seeding a pound of grapes, she opted to leave them in, not minding the bit of crunch they added to her pie but realizing also that not everyone would enjoy them. In my Google searches for apple-grape pie recipes, though, I came upon a page from the website of the New York Folklore Society, containing what appeared to be an old-fashioned, upstate New York recipe for Concord Grape Pie. This recipe describes a technique for removing the seeds.
This same grape pie recipe was also written up in Saveur Magazine, and interestingly I found a version of it in a cookbook that I keep on my shelf but don’t use very much: Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking: A Mennonite Community Cookbook. That, along with the fact that the origins of the upstate New York pie apparently came from “an old German woman” makes me curious. Does Concord Grape pie have some Amish provenance? Does it, like me, come from Pennsylvania Dutch stock?
But I digress. The technique for removing the seeds from the grapes is a little like the method I used earlier this summer for making berry sodas. First you pinch the thick purple skin to squeeze out the surprisingly green pulp inside. The skins are set aside in a bowl, while the pulp goes onto the stove. It’s simmered down for a few minutes until it’s soft, then strained through a sieve. The seeds are tossed, and the strained hot pulp is stirred back into the reserved purple skins.
Through all of this, the grapes give off their musky, autumn-sweet aroma. The process of separating and then recombining the purple skin and the green fruit made me think of what making wine must be like. These definitely were not your ordinary, thin-skinned seedless supermarket grapes.
For the pie, I simply mixed the grape mixture with a roughly equal amount of apples that had been peeled, cored, and sliced. I added quick-cooking tapioca to bind the liquids, and lemon juice, sugar (only a little), and a pinch of nutmeg for flavor. Once the filling had been added to the pie shell, I dotted it liberally with butter (this step is important: I forgot this step for one pie and it failed to set. It was tasty, but very runny). Then I covered it all with a top layer of pastry dough, into which small slits were cut to allow steam to escape while baking.
The end result was a beautiful red-purple pie with a delicious grape fragrance and flavor. I’ll definitely make this pie again. I’m also very curious to try a full-on, traditional Concord grape pie, and I think soon I’ll be able to. The farmer I bought my grapes from, Stone Arch Farms & Bakery in the Union Square Greenmarket, said that soon be bringing old-fashioned grape pies to the market. I wonder if his recipe came from an old German woman too.