October is probably my favorite time of year here in Southern California. The days are clear and sunny (and can be hot — supposed to be in the 90′s today!) but it invariably cools off at night, leaving clear skies, perfect for stargazing. October is also one of those magical food times, when we’re still getting a few tomatoes and peaches from the summer, but the cool weather produce is starting to come in — apples, peaches, butternut squash, and grapes.
We get grapes from so many places around the world now that we forget to think of them as seasonal fruit, but anyone who lives in or near wine country knows that fall is the time of the grape harvest, and that applies to table grapes as well. The best, sweetest, most flavorful varieties abound in fall – the red, green and black grapes we see every day, but also the headily perfumed muscat grapes and the classically flavored concord grapes. I had long wanted to make a grape pie, but the grapes with the truest “grape” flavor — the flavor of grape juice and grape jelly — are Concord grapes, which are also famous for their grape seeds.
That’s why I was thrilled when I saw a new hybrid grape variety at my local farmers’ market — Thomcord grapes. A cross between Thompson seedless and Concord grapes, these are small (about the size of large blueberries) grapes with big flavor, and no seeds. Perfect for a pie.
The truth is, grapes are very juicy. And when they’re cooked they release a LOT of juice. This pie doesn’t slice nicely into neat wedges — when you cut it, intense purple juice runs all over the plate. I would suggest serving it in bowls. But with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream, the juicy pop of grapes (reminiscent of cherry or blueberry pie, which IMO, are the great fruit pies), the tart sweet musky flavor of the grape juice and the crunch of pastry make a mighty fine combination.
- 1 recipe for a double crust pie dough (use the recipe and technique found here, but double the amounts and don’t blind bake.
- 5 cups Thomcord grapes
- 1 c. sugar
- ¼ c. cornstarch
- Juice ½ lemon
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the pie crust, and line a 9 inch pie pan with the bottom crust.
- Remove the stems from the grapes, wash and dry them. In a bowl, toss them with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt. Pour the filling into the bottom crust.
- Lay the top crust on top of the grapes and seal. Using an apple corer or a small cookie cutter, cut circles from your top crust in a pattern.
- Bake until the pie is golden brown — about 40 minutes. Cool and serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.