Food-Filled Fridays: Grape Pies


Well, today is the first of something that has never happened on Making My Boast.  Today we are featuring our first guest blogger!! So… Enjoy!! =)

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fresh grapes

 

Grape Pies 101
If you’ve never had Concord grape pie before, you should try it. It has a strong, delicious flavor that will knock your socks off, and it’s easy to make. The various steps–especially if you make a lot of pies, like I did–while being easy, can be time consuming, so you may want to enlist some helpers to make it go faster. 😉
I don’t know whether you can get Concord grapes in a grocery store; they don’t keep well, unlike your typical grocery-store California-grown seedless grapes. Concord grapes are another thing altogether; they’re grown in cold climates, NY being a champion grower of them, I believe. Concord grapes always have seeds in them which you have to get out, one way or another, and their skins slip off easily if you pinch the grape. The skins are a dark bluish-purple, and in fact most of the flavor (and nutrition, I’ve heard) of the grape is in the skin. Concord grapes have a unique flavor, different and stronger than the “regular”, non-slip-skin type of grape, and the flavor comes out more strongly when you cook them for pies or jam/jelly. We get our grapes from a family who grows and sells them in Bainbridge.
First of all, you will need to make the pie pastry. We use a recipe we got from Mrs. Day a long time ago, which has worked quite well for us and is the best recipe we have ever come across. (In our opinion, the best pie crust recipe EVER! 🙂 ) I’ll put the recipe at the bottom of this blog post. The pie pastry is supposed to chill at least 3 hours – we usually make it the night before and put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight. Letting it chill makes it easier to work with.
You will need a strainer (colander) or two, at least one of them with holes small enough that the grape seeds won’t go through, and some pots and pans. Here are the ingredients for one grape pie (scale it up accordingly if you want to make any more):
2 crusts Sally’s Pie Pastry, unbaked
5 cups Concord grapes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
First of all, put some clusters of grapes in a strainer and rinse them. Pick off any yucky ones beforehand – Concord grapes deteriorate fast, so by the time I used our grapes, a lot of them had cracked open and were getting moldy or rotten. Once you’ve picked off the bad ones, usually the other ones are perfectly fine. As long as they aren’t really squishy, they should be fine.

 

One of my brothers Justin helping pick the grapes off the stem

 

Next, pick the grapes off the stem into a measuring cup till it reaches 5 cups. I usually smell any of the grapes that have split open – my brothers tease me about that, saying I sniff them ALL – to make sure they are good. Usually even the split ones are fine, just really ripe, but sometimes they are starting to go bad, so you may want to smell them to make sure. You will know right away by the smell. If you are more diligent than me and use the grapes before they are getting to the point where they are splitting, you can skip that part.
Once you have 5 cups, it’s time to start separating the skins from the insides. Set up two pots on the stove – one for skins, one for insides. Gently squeeze each grape, and the inside should pop out. The more ripe they are, the easier the insides pop out. If they’re really overripe (in which case they are still perfectly usable), they’re often separating on their own. 

 

Now there's a lot more in here! 🙂

 

When you have squeezed all of the grapes, you can rinse off some more grapes and repeat the whole process over again if you want to do another pie – 5 cups of grapes for each pie. I did it 6 times over,  since I was making 6 pies. It took a while to get all those grapes squeezed! But some of my brothers helped, and that saved the day.

When you have as many grapes squeezed as you want, put the heat on the pots. Pour a little bit of the liquid from the insides in with the skins, to keep the skins from burning, and put it on medium or low – let it simmer. Technically, the skins don’t need to cook, but heating them up helps the skins get softer, which is preferable in my opinion. The grape insides need to cook down enough for you to be able to strain the seeds out. This only took a few minutes for me, but the ones I used were really overripe, which made them cook down faster. Still, I don’t think it would take much more than five minutes after it comes to a boil. You can turn off the heat from the skins at the same time the pot with the grape insides is done.

After the grape insides have cooked down, you strain out the seeds while it is still hot. You can do that either of two ways: 1) use a food mill to remove them, or 2) just use a strainer, which is what we do. Make sure the strainer doesn’t have holes so big that the grape seeds can get through. Set up the strainer over a bowl, and dump the liquid through. The most liquid-y (yes, making up a word here) stuff will go through really fast, while the stuff that has a texture more like applesauce goes through slower. Stir it around to help it go down. The seeds will be left behind, but there always is pulpy stuff clinging to the seeds. Just keep stirring it around till as much of it as possible goes through; it’s impossible to get it perfect. (A fact I always ignore, since I always try to get it perfect and every last bit of pulpy stuff down.)

 

straining the seeds

 

After I cooked down the insides when I made it, it was so liquidy (like juice) that I was concerned it was too liquidy, like maybe I had cooked it down too much. The pies came out fine, though. I think it was so liquidy because the grapes were SO ripe, they turned into juice a lot faster than they would normally.

Now you should roll out the pie dough. Cut your ball of pie dough in half – one half for the top crust, one half for the bottom. Sprinkle some flour on your working area. Lightly flour the rolling pin you will be using, too. Roll the chunk of dough in the flour to lightly coat it with flour; this just helps keep it from sticking. Make the dough into a circular shape with your hands, and press on it to flatten it slightly. This is just getting the starting-shape for rolling it out. Begin rolling it out, rolling from the center towards the edges in each direction. Keep rolling, making sure that the thickness in the center of the dough gets spread out evenly, till it looks a little larger than your pie pan. Keep sprinkling a little more flour if the dough starts sticking to the table or the rolling pin. (Sometimes the pie pastry comes out more sticky than others.)

 

rolling out the pie dough

 

Hold your pie pan upside-down over it to check. The dough should extend about 1 1/2 inches beyond the edge of the pan, so that there is a little extra for folding the crust down. As for transferring it into the pan, I think sometimes I’ve been able to just pick it up and put it in, “easy as pie”. 😉 Other times, you’ll  need to fold it to keep it from breaking apart. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough to keep it from sticking, and fold it in half. Again, sprinkle a little more flour, and fold it in half again the other direction. Place that in the pie pan, and unfold it.

Roll out your upper crust (or if you want, assemble the pie filling first); the upper crust should be a little larger than the pie pan, too, but not quite as big as the bottom crust. (It’s not rocket science, though. 😉 )

 

All ready for the insides! 🙂

 

Also, preheat  your oven to 425 degrees. (Grape pies bake at a higher temperature than other pies, to keep the crust from getting soggy.)

Now, combine the grape pie filling ingredients! Get a big bowl – big enough so that the liquid won’t splash out when you stir it. First, put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl, and stir them together. (If you add the flour later, it will clump up.) Then dump in the grape insides and the grape skins. Stir together. Ahhh . . . looking yummy! Stir in the lemon juice.

Ladle the filling into the pie pan with the bottom crust in it. If you’re doing more than one pie, just try to ladle the mixture out evenly between each pie. Put the top crust on, using the folding method I mentioned earlier.
*insert picture I forgot to take where I ladle the filling into the pie pans. Sorry, folks, you’ll just have to imagine this part!*

 

combining the filling

 

 

Yum yum!

 

Fold the edges of crust over, (where it is hanging over the pan) and crimp it with your fingers if you wish. You may want to trim the overhanging crust before you fold it over. Since the crust is never rolled out perfectly, usually there is too much overhanging in some spots which you have to cut off. Most of the edges of the crust come from the bottom crust, which had that extra length so that you could fold it down to make the crust. I forgot to take a picture of this part too – oops! I was too busy trying to hurry up and get the pies in the oven so that we wouldn’t be having them at 10:00 at night.

Next, stick in the oven preheated for 425 degrees! Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The crust should be getting golden-brown when it is done. Err on the side of less-done, because over-baked crust is more dry and not as tasty. Since I was doing six pies, I had to put three on an upper rack, and three on a bottom rack, and switch them around halfway through. They don’t cook as fast when there are so many in the oven at once, because there isn’t as good air circulation. (That’s why the racks can’t be too close together.) The ones on the bottom rack’s bottom crusts cook faster, while the ones on the top brown at the top faster.

Since you, the reader of this post, will probably be doing one or two pies, you won’t have that problem! Lucky you. 😉

 

the finished product

 

Notice the patchy appearance of the pie crust. That’s because I put the scraps that I cut off from the edges on the top of the pie. I had rolled the crust really thin, thinking I only just barely had enough to go around, so I put the extra scraps on top. I wouldn’t recommend you do like I did. I think it screwed up the baking of it – it didn’t bake as evenly.
If it seems like the crust around the edges is getting much darker than the top of the crust is, you may want to lower the heat a little, or cover them with foil. Usually we bake our pies at 375 for ten minutes, then lower to 350. With grape pies cooking at such a hotter temperature, it’s harder to get the crust to come out just right.

Now, eat and enjoy!! You can let it cool first if you want . . . some people in our house aren’t so big on waiting, being impatient to eat them. The pies will be rather messy – not firm – but not “liquid-y” anymore, because of the flour you added. The next day, when they’re completely cool, they will be more firm.

 

This is how it is the same day. *drooling*

 

 

This is how it is the second day. 🙂

 

Here is the recipe we use for making pie dough:

Sally’s Pie Pastry:

From Sally Day 

Note: This recipe makes 5 crusts, enough for two pies with a bottom and top crust each plus one crust more. Kind of an inconvenient amount, I know. I would scale it down, except it’s hard to scale down “1 egg”. You can freeze the extra to use later.

5 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1 egg
2 teaspoons vinegar
water

Stir together flour and salt. Measure out the shortening and cut in with a butter knife. The shortening should be in lumps from pea size to marble size, with no dry flour left. (see Cadie’s Note below.)

Mix the egg in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup. Add the vinegar and enough water to make one cup. Pour the liquid into the flour/shortening mixture until evenly moistened. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill 3 hours or overnight. This is supposed to make 5 single crusts, but my mom says she has rolled it extra thin and used the scraps, and managed to get 8 crusts from it. When rolling out, use a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover for best results. Dust the ball of dough before rolling out. You can make the crust with part whole wheat flour.

*Cadie’s Note:  My sister and I use our fingers to break the Crisco into smaller bits, and to gently toss the flour mixture so that all the shortening gets covered with flour. For best results (though it’s not a big deal), try not to “mush” the shortening into the flour. If you mush it/knead it too much, the flour will have absorbed moisture from the Crisco and won’t be able to absorb the egg, vinegar and water mixture you pour into it as well. Conversely, if you don’t work it with your fingers at all (which develops the gluten), the flour and shortening mixture may not absorb all of the liquid. The idea is to gently work it with your fingers so that all the flour gets absorbed, but not emphatically knead it all so that it all gets mushed together. In the end, you still want there to be lumps of shortening, because that makes pockets of fat as it cooks, which causes the crust to come out wonderfully flaky.
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About the Author:

 

Cadie P.

 

Cadie P.

Hometown: Binghamton, NY
Age: 21
About Me:
My name is Cadie, short for Cadence. I write on my own blog “The Wandering Waif” because it seemed to connote my general personality. The etymology of the word “waif” suggest something lost and unclaimed, and people have always told me that I look lost. Rather than being like someone striding purposefully from one point to the next, I am more like someone wandering around–wandering in the woods, perhaps, and taking pictures. Or in a more figurative sense, wandering my way through the day. I don’t mean it to be applied very specifically, though–mostly the name sounded good and it seemed to fit in some way. 

Where my interests lie and what I spend time doing vary from time to time, but in general I enjoy writing, drawing/painting, photos, nature and little kids.
Tune in next week for more Food-Filled Fridays!
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One Response to Food-Filled Fridays: Grape Pies

  1. tori winn says:

    oh my gosh! Grape Pies! Awesome! I love them! Whenever I ask anyone if they’ve ever heard of them…they haven’t. I feel like they are specifically limited to NY…your region. Eat a slice for me 🙂

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