A few weeks ago, I spotted baskets of Concord grapes at the farmers’ market. The sight of them brought back memories of last fall, when Dylan and I would bike along the grape belt on the last few warm and sunny days of the year. It was the first time I noticed the intensely sweet smell of Concord grapes in the air. We both agreed it smelled like grape juice and childhood. I wanted to bottle it up in a jar and take it home with me. We spent the ride home recalling our own grape-flavored memories. I love how a smell can surprise you with a trip down memory lane.
We enjoyed an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon picking Concords at a nearby farm. Some of our fondest memories and traditions revolve around visiting farms and picking fruits and vegetables. It can be deeply meditative to spend some time removed from the sound of speeding cars and the glare of a computer screen, focused only on the simple task of filling an empty basket with grapes.
Concord grape pie is something special. Yes, it’s quite labor intensive for pie, and yes, its juices might leave vibrant purple stains all over your favorite white sweatshirt, but even so, it’s a labor of love that’s worth making. My plan is to make extra pie filling with our six(!) pounds of grapes and freeze it for the colder months, when we yearn to be reminded of long days, long bike rides, and long rows of Concords.
Dylan was set on bringing home some local maple sugar from the grape farm. I thought it would make a great sprinkled atop this pie! I usually use turbinado sugar, so this time I opted to mix both types of sugars together for a balance of flavor and crunch. Use what you have!
for the pie crust:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup cold water
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup ice cubes (optional – my water was very cold and my ice cube tray was empty. my crust turned out just fine)
for the filling:
- 2 lbs Concord grapes, stems removed
- 1 scant cup sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
for assembly (optional, see note above):
- turbinado sugar, maple sugar, or a mix, for sprinkling
Make the pie crust:
- Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a spatula or clean hands. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain. Be careful not to overblend.
- In a measuring cup, combine the water, cider, and ice cubes, if using. Sprinkle four tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, a tablespoon or two at a time, using your hands to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
- Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Divide the dough in half, shape each portion into a flat disc, wrap each portion in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
Make the filling:
Slip pulp of each grape out of its skin into a medium saucepan, put skins into a large bowl, and set aside. Cook pulp over medium heat, stirring often, until soft, 8–10 minutes, then strain into bowl with skins, pressing on solids with the back of a spoon. Discard seeds. Set aside to cool completely. Stir sugar and cornstarch into grapes and set aside.
Assemble and bake the pie:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll the larger dough ball out on a lightly floured surface into a 12″ round, then fit into a 9″ pie plate. Transfer grape filling to pastry bottom and scatter butter on top. Roll the remaining dough ball out on the lightly floured surface into a 10″ round, cut a 1″ hole in center of dough to let steam escape, then cover filling with pastry round. Fold edges of dough under and crimp edges. (Alternatively, use the remaining dough disk to make a lattice topping for your pie. Get creative! It’s not an everyday that you’ll have a beautiful pie sitting pretty on your dinner table.) Sprinkle pie with turbinado and/or maple sugar, if using. Bake pie for 20 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350°F, and continue baking until pastry is golden brown, 45–50 minutes more. Set pie aside to cool completely.