Recipes, memories and random thoughts from my kitchen
Saturday, September 29, 2007
A marvelous discovery...
Last week, when Mr. T and I were out for our daily walk, we made a marvelous discovery. All summer we have been taking a different route for our walk, for two reasons: first, a bridge on our usual route is being replaced and the road was impassable much of the time; and, second, the alternate route we found is shadier and much more bearable through the summer heat. In past summers we just haven’t been faithful about walking on the very hottest days, because the only time we can consistently walk together is high noon. This summer, with our alternate route, we’ve been able to walk quite comfortably for a mile or two every day. So that has been a blessing. The route isn’t yet so familiar to us that we know every inch of it as we do with our regular one.
So it was a wonderful surprise when, passing what had once been an old homestead, but is now just a cellar hole and stone walls, we noticed a grapevine that had wound its way through trees and was now heavy with bunches of purple grapes over a stone wall. On an impulse, Mr. T went over and plucked a cluster of grapes. As we headed home, we marveled over their color and aroma. They actually smelled very much like the Concord grapes I remembered picking as a child in the grape arbors belonging to relatives.
(Can you just imagine what our station wagon smelled like on those faraway fall days? Bushels of Concord grapes filled the back compartment, and the amazing aroma of them filled the entire car. Of course, we always wanted to eat some, but they are really not sweet enough to eat out of hand. We had to wait until my mother made grape juice and grape jelly from them!)
Back to 2007... as we walked, we decided to taste these grapes. And we both decided that, sure enough, these were Concord grapes gone a bit wild over the years. Later, I asked my mother (who grew up in these parts) if she ever remembered Concord grapes growing at that old house. She did. Well, after returning home, we decided that if we could take time, later in the week, we would go back and pick some of those grapes -- just enough to make a grape pie. I looked up my old recipe which I hadn’t used for years; it was, providentially, in a Farm Journal pie cookbook which my mother had only recently handed on to me because I had always used it far more than she did.
On Wednesday we spent the morning out of town as I had a doctor’s appointment. We got back in time to go for our walk at noon, and Mr. T picked the grapes then. (The vines were all mixed in with trees and blackberry bushes.)
Once home, I washed the grapes thoroughly with fruit and veggie wash and then sorted them. My pie recipe called for 4 1/2 cups and I only had about 3 1/2 cups, but I picked a few apples from our wild tree and made some microwave applesauce and mixed that in with the grape mixture, to make up for the missing amount of grape pulp.
The resulting pie was a thing of beauty; I only wish I had thought to take a picture then, but I didn’t. Mr. T thought it was good, but I was really disappointed in the flavor -- it had sort of a “wild” taste and was not as grape-y as I remembered. But guess what? By the next day, the flavor had really mellowed! It was absolutely wonderful! If you have access to Concord grapes, you might like to try my recipe. It is rather labor-intensive in the preparation of the grapes, but so worth the trouble! Here’s the recipe:
CONCORD GRAPE STREUSEL PIE
Unbaked 9-inch pastry shell 4 1/2 cups Concord grapes 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup flour 2 tsp. lemon juice 1/8 tsp. salt Oat Streusel (recipe follows)
Wash the grapes and remove the skins by pinching at the end opposite stem. (I do the pinching maneuver over a saucepan, so the pulp goes right into the saucepan. Then I simply toss the grape skins, which need to be reserved to add to the filling later, into a small bowl at hand for the purpose.)
Place the pulp in a saucepan (already done if you do it my way) and bring to a boil. (Nope, you don’t need to add water.) Cook for a few minutes until pulp is soft. (Mine took about 10 minutes, I think probably because some of my grapes weren’t quite ripe.) Remove from heat and, while pulp is still hot, put it through a strainer or a food mill to remove the seeds.
Mix the strained pulp with the reserved grape skins. (These are what will give the filling that pretty purple color.) Stir in flour, sugar, lemon juice and salt.
Place the grape mixture in the unbaked pastry shell. Sprinkle on the Oat Streusel, made by combining 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and 1/4 cup either canola oil (my choice) or melted butter.
I live in scenic northern New England with my handsome husband. We're empty-nesters with a bunch of adorable grandchildren. We love (tent) camping and traveling, but don't get away as often as we'd like to.