Who has tasted a Traditional Concord Grape Pie? Put up your hand!
Oh me, oh me, oh my, oh my. This is one delectable pie! Thank you, Charmian Christie, for the inspiration!Raisin Pie is a traditional Canadian prairie pie, but I have never made it as I don’t like it. It makes my teeth ache, it is so sweet. Grandma Maude made it and so did my mom. Dad loves it, as do so many “old folks” that remember those heritage recipes “everyone” used to make and enjoy together over a cup of steaming coffee around someone’s kitchen table. Raisins are dried grapes. Don’t laugh, those of you that know this. I have taught “Foods” classes to many students over a few years and not only did most of them not know this, most of our young teachers and parents do not know this. Knowing that raisins are dried grapes, I was curious as to why I have not ever even heard of a grape pie in my entire life until just this year when Charmian submitted her Grape Pie with Crumb Topping as her Cherished Canadian Food Recipe for The Canadian Food Experience Project.I wrote about my love for the mighty Concord Grape and the quintessential grape flavour in the their skins. Concord Grape Juice is decadent and delicious and expensive. I couldn’t imagine a pie with that flavour. I could not imagine the texture of a grape pie, seeds removed. My research was more than a little embarrassing. Many people have been enjoying grape pies for many years, as Charmian has. It is a famous local delicacy from Naples, New York, known as the Grape Pie Capital of the World as Irene Bouchard apparently launched the grape pie industry there in 1965. Al Hodges, owner of the Redwood Restaurant across the street from her house, started baking grape pies for his guests in 1960 every fall when they were in season. The demand was so great that he could not keep up with it as his customers soon we asking for an entire pie to take home with them. That is when he asked her to make them to sell for his customers. No one else was making grape pies. She originally acquired her filling recipe from a friend of her mother’s, but altered it to achieve a greater clarity of colour and texture. She changed the addition of flour as a thickener to that of tapioca and was very pleased with the results. In her busiest season, she hand prepared two and a quarter tons of grapes.I chose to make this pie first. “While Bouchard no longer handles orders in the thousands per season, she still fulfills custom orders and will most definitely have pies available at her home at 9 Cohocton Street during the Naples Grape Festival. Just look for the large grape flag and the bunch of “grape” balloons across from the Redwood. Bouchard charges $9 per pie. For individual orders, call Bouchard two days in advance of when the pies are needed. She may be reached at (585) 374-2068.” This was written in 2004 when Bouchard was 86 years old in an article titled The Queen of Grape Pies on page 50 in The Naples Record. The recipe I have used is identical to Irene’s with one exception. I added 2 more tablespoons of tapioca.I was over the moon when I pulled this beauty out of the oven and place it on the bench outside of my back door. Irene always donned her Classic Grape Pies with a circle to let the gorgeous Concord Grape colour surround the top crust and celebrate this seasonal jewel.I was sniffing and ogling the intoxicating amethystine hue. Imbued with awe as the glossy plump spherules suffused in a wonderland of grapey goodness appeared almost surreal. How could the grapes in the filling look so full and juicy, appearing whole. Once would never imagine, looking at this pie, that every skin was popped off every grape, pulps strained and added back to the skins. Who thinks like this? I could barely contain myself.The texture is alluring and requires a healthy chew. The essence of the mighty Concord permeates as the skins deliver their elixir, yet the flavour is not bold. It is a delicate, addictive and hypnotic spell that captivates from first bite to last. In the midst of it all, I realized my tail was wagging wildly.The prepared concord grapes after 5 hours of combining the skins with the pulp. I prepared 3 kilos at once for several recipes. The tapioca and sugar was added an hour before filling the pie shell. The recipe called for one tablespoon of tapioca, yet was too soupy. I added two more tablespoons to ensure the filling would hold together when sliced. Pie filling should not be gelatinous, nor should it be so loose that it cannot hold the shape of a slice when cut. I was delighted with the texture of this filling. No one else flutes pie this way, yet it is gorgeous to me. This is the way my family has always fluted our pies. I prefer it to anyone else’s fluting technique, yet no one has lined up for a lesson on fluting from me. What do you think? Are we on to something? After preparing the grapes, this pie is about as straight forward as any pie I have ever made: prepare the pastry, pour in the filling, top with pastry. Brushing the top crust with an egg wash and sprinkling with Demerara sugar creates a delicious, crunchy crystalline crust. The hole in the centre allows steam to escape.Happy Day! Oh, Happy, Happy Day! Cooling on the bench outside, I just sat and watched.Eventually, it was cool enough to slice, which I did slowly, with the most careful interest prudently lifting the first slice out of the pie. The visual pleasure of each slice was almost as appealing to me as eating my piece.I didn’t remember the Concord Grape Sorbet in the freezer until I had only one bite left. Lucky me. There was an entire pie left and the sorbet called for that second slice. Blush. Cheeks flushed in rosy Concord hued circles, I forged on to discover that the sorbet was mighty tasty with this Classic Canadian Concord Grape Pie. Irene Bouchard deserves to be the Queen of the Grape Pie. I know I will be making the Concord Grape Pie at least once each season. I am still confused about why no one in my Canadian prairie world, all of these years, has every heard of a grape pie. Do tell.
- 5½ cups or 2 pounds or I kilo of Concord grapes, washed, or
- 500g prepared Concord Grapes
- 1 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the grapes
- 3 tablespoons tapioca
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Pastry for a 9-inch pie, fluted
- egg wash (i egg)
- 2-3 tablespoons Demerara sugar
- Add sugar and tapioca during the 4th hour of the grapes sitting for 5 hours
- Prepare pie crust
- Pre-heat oven to 400F
- Pour mixture into pie crust; dot with butter
- Top with round cut out for crust; brush with egg and sprinkle with Demerara sugar
- Bake at 400F for 15 minutes; lower temperature to 350F cook 20 minutes more, or until crust is brown and juice bubbles
I also made Charmian’s recipe for Concord Grape Pie with Crumb Topping which will be published next.