Seasonal Cooking 23 Sep 2012 06:25 pm
As a kid I used to swipe Concord grapes off the vine growing out back of a neighbor’s shed. Their deep musty smell and rich sweet taste say “grape” to me, much more than those green gumdrop orbs called “seedless grapes.” It’s a fragrance and flavor very much of autumn, of sugars mellowed slowly on the vine all season, concentrated by a full summer’s worth of sun.
In upstate New York it’s a seasonal specialty to make pies from these grapes, as I’ve written about before on this blog. Prepping the grapes for the pie involves pinching out the green pulp into a saucepan, heating it until soft, then pushing it through a strainer to remove the seeds. The hot, strained pulp is then steeped with the purple skins. It’s a great cool autumn morning’s chore that leaves you smelling – and smelling like – Concord grapes for the rest of the day.
Concord grape season is also apple season, and I like a half-grape half-apple pie filling. This week my girlfriend Karol brought over the year’s first Honeycrisps from Paisley Farm CSA and a box of Concords she’d gotten from Stone Arch Farm’s booth in the Union Square Greenmarket. We rolled up our sleeves for some pie making.
Concord grapes are the inspiration (and usually also the ingredients) for grape jelly, so it only made sense to add peanut butter to the crust. Karol and I have done this in the past and have gotten a great peanut-butter-and-jelly taste. We have found, though, that incorporating peanut butter into a traditional pâte brisée crust can make it a little dry. This traditional pastry just seems too fussy to accept such a change.
This time, Karol, who’s well known around here as a pie genius, thought to use a peanut butter-laced pâte sucrée instead. This cookie-like crust worked perfectly (though next time we’ll likely skip the blind-baking, since the edges of the crust ended up a shade or two darker than we would’ve liked). As a riff on the traditional ‘floating crust’ Karol cut squares of the peanut butter pâte sucrée and arranged them in a beautiful Mondrian-esque lattice. I did mention she’s a pie genius, right?
Mixing apples into the grape filling lightened the intensity of those pungent Concords and added some texture by way of crisp apple crunch. And the crust had a delicious peanut butter flavor with a soft, moist, slightly crumbly texture. I think our peanut butter and jelly pie recipe is just about perfected.