I bought a basket of concord grapes this morning. From all current reviews, the grape crop this year is exceptional…huge numbers of perfect purple globes. I love the smell of fresh concord grapes; the scent just screams “fall in western New York”! I spent several of my early years living on the shores of Lake Erie and spending time with my grandparents near Westfield. To me, the scent of grapes ready for harvest is like a warm hug. It just envelopes my senses and takes me back to my youth. I remember going into the vineyard behind my grandparent’s house and sneaking a few of those precious purple gems. I could never get away with eating many, though, as the purple would always stain my mouth!
I am a western New Yorker through and through. After graduating from Jamestown High School, I choose to attend SUNY at Fredonia. I didn’t want to leave the area, so this was the perfect choice. At the time I was sure I wanted to be a music teacher and where better to go? The scent from my youth seemed to follow me there…if you ever drove through Fredonia in the fall, you know what I am talking about. The scent wafting from the former Red Wing canning facility seemed to be all through the village! Grapes being readied for jams and jellies as well as tomatoes that would be turned into chili sauces and ketchup were the harvest of choice. If only I could have bottled that smell!
There are many food specialties that you just can’t get when you leave the confines of western New York…beef on wick, a good fish fry, “real” Buffalo wings, and my very favorite, Concord grape pie. For those few of you that may not be familiar with it, grape pie is a true WNY delicacy. I once saw a chef from the west coast making grape pie on a TV show. I was very excited to see my favorite dessert making it big, but was quickly disappointed to see that they made it wrong! Well, wrong by my standards, that is! Where I work very hard to remove the seeds from my concords, the TV chef left them in, making her pie as you would a blueberry pie by simply mixing the grapes with sugar and cornstarch. When asked why she left the seeds in, her response was that they added a “nutty flavor”. Nutty flavor perhaps, but who wants to crunch on all of those hard little seeds? One of the more tedious parts of making grape pie is removing those annoying seeds, but it is well worth the effort! I remember sitting at the table with my Nana, slipping the skins from the pulp of the grapes so we could cook down the pulp and strain the seeds away. This was always a silly job, because every so often when you squeezed the pulp from the skin, it missed the bowl and went sailing across the table (frequently hitting my brother. Go figure?!). Just another memory that makes me smile!
It just wouldn’t be fall without a fresh grape pie, so I strongly suggest you pick up a basket of grapes and feel the love as you slip those skins!
Concord Grape Pie
- 1 ½ lb concord grapes
- 1 c sugar
- ¼ c flour
- ¼ t salt
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 ½ T melted butter
- Pastry for double crust pie
Slip pulp from skins into a sauce pan, setting skins aside, and bring pulp to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Press pulp through a sieve or food mill to remove seeds,
Add reserved skins to pulp. Combine sugar, flour and salt, add lemon juice, butter and grape pulp mixture. Mix well and pour into a pastry lined pie plate. Add top crust and bake at 400* for 40–45 minutes, until crust is golden and juices bubble through slits in the top crust.
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