Food Sunday: Grape Stuff and Why My Kitchen Aid is Busted

NEW AND IMPROVED: This was originally posted at ‘you know where’ and I got a comment about grape pie, which is to the Finger Lakes of New York what Buffalo wings are to the Anchor Bar, so for those folks who are lusting after grape pie, just scroll down to the bottom for the ‘official’ Naples, NY grape pie recipe.

The DH and I have been at this marriage/housekeeping thing for a very long time, but even we have not done everything. This year, I became very sensitive to the whole ‘is there no food that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it?” thing and decided that since PB&J is the “go to” lunch at Chez Siberia, that I’d make grape jam. Since we live about an hour from one of the great grape growing regions in the United States, we decided to go up this morning and pick grapes.

Yes, there are such places as ‘U Pick” in terms of grapes. Some of the vineyards will set aside wine grapes for home wine makers, but some people with grapes that are not really popular for making wine now (grapes go in cycles – thirty years ago, these particular grapes were being used by the big commercial wineries; then they got out of this and started using more fancy ‘vinifera’ grapes) are doing "you pick’ rather than just rip out the vines . This particular place grows Concord (the staple of you-know-who’s grape jelly), Niagara, Catawba and Delaware grapes. We picked Catawba and Delaware because they are different, and are actually better for jams and jellies. We really did not ‘pick’ per se – we were actually given little clippers to snip the clusters off the vines. Very tidy. And there is something truly magical about lifting up the leaves and finding these huge clusters of grapes. So, it was easy for us to pick our two boxes in 30 minutes (that was 36 pounds – a lot of grapes for actually very little work), weigh out and come home.

Now, the DH and I have made all sorts of jams from fruit – but we almost ground to a standstill when we tried to put the grapes (after we’d washed them well and taken them off the stems) through the vegetable attachment of our Kitchen Aid mixer. This is an amazing piece of equipment (and is featured on that tomato photo at the top of the page) but obviously, it was never meant to deal with grape seeds.

Which are big. And hard. And basically jammed up the end of the attachment and caused it to explode. Why am I thinking about that scene at the dinner table in “Alien”?

Anyway, while the DH was working away, I beat a hasty retreat to ‘the large housewares and bedding store’ and bought myself the biggest food mill they’ve got. Why I never had one is beyond me, but I can tell you that other than a bit of arm work, it’s a cinch to use and made short work of the grapes, which we’d smooshed down and simmered a bit. Now, if I could have figured out a way to separate the grape seeds from the rest of the skins and grind them up to get grape seed oil, I certainly would have done that but even the vineyards have issues with that and usually just put the stuff from the wine making operations out on the fields.

In any case, making jam is simplicity itself. Although I found plenty of recipes for grape jam/jelly that called for commercial pectin, I have no issues with using plain old sugar, particularly with fruit that is as ‘hit you in the head’ sweet as these grapes were. As a matter of fact, the amount of sugar I had to use to get it to gel up was actually about half of what I usually have to use with strawberries – for two big pots of grape solids and juice, I ended up using about 4.5 cups of sugar. Just heat up the solids and juice until it starts to cook down (it basically is a lot thicker than when you started), add the sugar and cook until it starts to coat a spoon. Then put a spoonful on a cold plate, wait a minute and if the whole puddle stays together and starts to move down the plate in a mass, you’ve got jam.

Put the hot jam into clean, washed, heated jars (I put mine into the oven at 350 for 5-10 minutes), top with clean lids and bands which have been heated up in simmering water. Screw down the bands and lids, waterbath process according to your canning textbook, put the jars on a cooking rack. Within a few minutes, you should hear the ‘ping’ of being done.

Nothing easier.

OK — Grape Pie, courtesy of Mike Turback (of Turbacks, the late much lamented Ithaca, NY restaurant)’s book "Greetings from the Finger Lakes: A Food and Wine Lover’s Companion", Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 2005.
"Makes one 9-inch pie
PIE CRUST

2½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
½ cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces
6 to 7 tablespoons cold water

FILLING

4 cups Concord grapes
1 cup sugar
? teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons tapioca
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

To make the pie crust, mix together the flour and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the water over the mixture a tablespoon at a time, mixing lightly after each addition, until the dough can be formed into a ball, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes before rolling out.

To make the filling, slip the skins off the grapes and reserve them. Put the grape pulp in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat just until soft enough to release the seeds, about 8 minutes. Push the grape pulp through a wire-mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Combine the pulp in a bowl with the reserved grape skins.

Roll out each ball of dough on a well-floured board until they are 10 to 11 inches in diameter. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan with a round of dough. Preheat the over to 450ºF. Mix the sugar, salt, and tapioca together in a bowl and spread about half of the mixture with the grapes and add the lemon juice. Pour the pie filling into the crust and dot with butter. Cover with the top crust and crimp the edges to seal. Bake for 10 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before serving. If not serving immediately, warm the pie in an oven set on the lowest temperature for 10 minutes before serving. "

Now, can you use other grapes to make this pie? I’ll bet you can and I still have several pounds of the Delawares and Catawbas in the fridge and that is what I will use them for. Also – please note: I have had grape pies which were one crust on the bottom and a ‘crisp’ (as in apple crisp) topping and they were really excellent so feel free to experiment with the top on these pies.

(also, as usual, you guys all know the drill on this – for more of etc. etc., go to Aunt Toby’s)

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