The alternate title of this post: Please Allow Me To Complicate Your Recipe…
I’ve seen tv shows and recipes about Grape Pie here and there over the past few years, and I’d been dying to find a rare place that makes it until I realized that it’s just like any pie that can be made with access to the right ingredients.
The most recent recipe I’d glanced at was in the Sept issue of Bon Appetit, from a bakery in Brooklyn, and with a vague memory or what it actually called for, I bought a few pounds of grapes when I was at the market on Wednesday. They say that they prefer Concord grapes, but since they’re hard to find, to use red grapes instead and add in 2 Tbs of concord grape concentrate. This partially applied to me. The Santa Monica Farmers Market has Concord grapes, but they’re $5/lb. I also saw Minukka Grapes (often used for raisins) this week for much less and they had a nice flavor, so I bought mostly Minukkas.
The recipe tells you to chop them in a food processor a little, drain them, and discard the 1.5 cups of grape juice. But my momma didn’t raise that kind of fool (hi, mom!). Who could discard fresh grape juice? It was completely delicious to drink — almost light, not as sour or sweet as commercial juice — but I had something much craftier in mind. Since I knew the recipe called for 2 Tbs of strongly flavored liquid, I poured a cup of red wine (syrah) and the grape juice into a pot and boiled to reduce it down to probably about 3 Tbs. Yes, I am the type of fool who reduces 2.5 cups of liquid to 3 Tbs to mix into a fruit pie.
The red wine added an intriguing depth to the pie, and of course, I felt all clever about the subtle play on grape-hood. Port would be a great choice, as well, if you want that flavor instead. A sauce, sorbet, or ice cream would also be an excellent form of wine/port to match with the pie, too, in lieu of the reduction.
Chopped grapes release a lot of liquid, so in this recipe, it’s bound up with quite a lot of cornstarch. Without the wine, I think that the cornstarch would have muted the pie’s flavor a bit much. As it is, there’s something elusive about a good grape flavor. For me, it’s really in the afteraste — after you crunch through the sweetness, that smoldering earthiness of the grape comes through. I’d been a little concerned about the possibly squishy texture of grapes in a pie, so I liked that this one chopped up the grapes. It was similar to a cherry pie.
I so wish that Concords could be more widely available to the public. They’re the grapiest grape that I know of, and are purely delightful.
And you’ll notice in the linked recipe that the pie is matched with Lemon Verbena Ice Cream. I happened to have some leftover in my freezer, and eating cold lemon verbena ice cream melting on a warm slice of pie was one of my defining culinary moments of this summer.