This is Mr. N’s first year of middle school. That means walking a fine line on Halloween. He absolutely did not want to miss trick or treating, but he also didn’t want to be caught dead in anything “babyish” or that might entice ridicule. So what to do? Gruesome? Clever? Or silly?
Well, if you know Mr. N, you can likely guess he desperately wanted a costume that was plain ridiculous. Fortunately, we found it.
I wish I could have captured our uproarious laughter when we found this tucked back on the rack. Or Miss A’s face when she walked in and saw a shark reading a book at the kitchen counter.
As for Miss A, well she is our rule enforcer, not necessarily a rule follower, however, a mighty enforcer. While we were in Colorado this past summer, she came across a National Park Ranger outfit and was immediately sold. She wore it nearly every day on vacation and again, proudly, on Halloween.
She was certain she would be the only Park Range at school. And she was.
And despite the gloomy, wet weather, the kids had a ball. They were soaking wet, but their buckets were full. (And so were their tummies!)
And just like that, Halloween is past and we’re now heading full-speed into November. That means it’s time for the next issue of Wine Tourist Magazine. This month the magazine is featuring the Finger Lakes. Well, you know I was more than happy to have another chance to gush about our favorite wine region.
I also knew instantly what I needed to make to represent the region – a Naples Grape Pie. It’s a traditional dessert made every harvest season in the Finger Lakes. You can read more about the pie’s history in my World Platter column here.
Have you ever heard of a grape pie? I certainly had not and you all know how I feel about pies! The only problem with my plan was that the Naples grape pie is traditionally made with Concord grapes. I have never seen or tasted a Concord in my life and I didn’t have time to drive (as much as I would have loved to) back to FLX.
I wasn’t about to give up on this pie experiment though, so I reach out to our friends Laury at Finger Lakes Wine Country and Tina from Sawmill Creek Vineyards. If anyone could help me solve this dilemma it was them. Sure enough the very next day a box of grapes arrived at my door from the Finger Lakes.
They froze the grapes overnight to help prevent them from rotting during shipping and they arrived safe and sound. The Concord grapes lost a bit of juice in transit, but the Vidal grapes held up very well. (More on the Vidal grapes in our next post.) Despite their appearance, the Concords were still fresh and delicious. If you’ve never had one, they taste exactly like grape jelly! Or my favorite – grape gum! So good. Just looking at these pictures I can smell them!
Knowing we were on borrowed time, we got to work straight away. The first step in making a grape pie is to skin the grapes. I was envisioning a nightmarish process of hand peeling each grape with a paring knife, but much to my surprise, these babies practically peel themselves! All you do is pinch them at the base and the pulp falls right out. Miss A was my enthusiastic pincher for the day. She quickly reminded me that when you help cook, you get samples. Despite the seeds, she was chowing down. Good thing we had plenty of grapes on hand!
After separating the skins and pulp, the pulp is boiled for about five minutes to help detach the seeds from the pulp. This is done by running the cooked pulp through a sieve or a food mill.
The pulp is then combined back with the skins and refrigerated for at least 4 hours.
This is when we prepared our pie crust, which we’ll revisit next week. We used our favorite, double shortening crust recipe, but any homemade crust would work. If you’re really short on time, you could purchase a premade crust as well.
After the grapes had a time to sit, we added sugar, cornstarch and verjooz (lemon juice would work in place of the Cab Franc verjuice). Mr. N was my mixer and dumper. He too snuck a few tastes. So far so good.
For this pie, we chose a lattice top so that we could see the beautiful dark grapes peeking through. Their color is really striking.
The pie bakes initially at 400 for the first 20 minutes and then the oven is turned down to 350 for the remainder of the baking time. Ours took an hour for that golden brown hue.
We served our Concord grape pie warm out of the oven, and again reheated with friends a few days later. The Concord filling held together well. It was warm and juicy, but not runny in the least. The crust held up well to the hefty filling.
So what does a Concord grape pie taste like? Imagine the “grapiest” thing you’ve ever tasted and then imagine that fully intensified. That is a Naples grape pie. It’s a unique and very bold flavor that’s sweet, but not overly so. The filling was jammy with the grape skins providing a nice chewy contrast. It was a perfect pie consistency.
As for spoon ratings, well, we were a house divided. Mike and Miss A were BIG fans of the Concord pie. They loved everything about it – flavor, texture and aroma. It was a 4 spoon dessert for both of them. Mr. N and I, however, did not make it a 4 spoon dish (despite it being a dessert!). We both enjoyed it, but were conflicted. On texture it garnered 4 spoons. On taste 3 spoons. I’m not sure what that makes it for us – 3.5 spoons? 3 spoons? Either way, we couldn’t call it a 4.
Not to worry, remember those Vidal grapes we mentioned? Well, stay tuned for the treat Mr. N and I preferred later this week.
I’m shocked this pie only came into being (at least in the Finger Lakes) in the 1960’s. It seems to me this would have been something someone would have discovered at some point. Perhaps it’s the challenge of finding Concords outside of the Northeastern U.S. (although wouldn’t you know I saw them at my market a week later – first time ever!). Or maybe it’s the amount of work that goes into pinching and seeding the grapes. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming and absolutely worth it.
While we all ultimately prefer our berry pies and cobblers, I have to say I would certainly never turn down a slice of this FLX harvest treat. Hopefully one of these days we’ll get out there in the fall for a visit, but until we do, I may have to make this to tide me over and enjoy it with a glass of Finger Lakes sparkling wine.
So what do you think? Have you ever heard of or eaten a grape pie? Was it made with Concords or another variety? Well, in case you weren’t sold on this one, we’ll be back later in the week with our Vidal version. It’s similar in preparation, but very different in flavors. In fact, now that I think about it, this month you’ll be getting quite a few pie-related recipes. Tis the season!
For the recipe click here: FLX Concord Grape Pie
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