Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Goodness of a Grape Pie

Outside of Naples, New York, late August 2016
Welcome to Day 2 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Grape season has come upon us here in upstate New York once again.  On the roadsides along the Finger Lakes (a little more than an hour from where I live), signs advertise grapes or grape juice for sale.  The wineries prepare for an onslaught of tourists for harvest season.

And then there is a regional favorite - grape pie.

I love to eat Concord grapes and, I have to admit, they do make a wonderful pie. I also put them on my breakfast cereal.  In season, I can't get enough of concord grapes.  Alas, this year, the crop wasn't a bumper crop due to a drought.  But at least I can get grapes.

For grape pie, though, I have to travel an hour and a half or so away from home.

You've heard of apple pie, strawberry/rhubarb pie, peach pie, pecan pie, and blueberry pie. Everyone has their favorite recipe for pie and many regions of our country have a pie that represents them.

For parts of upstate New York, our local pie of pride is grape pie, made with Concord grapes.

Yes, Concord Grapes.  Those grapes, the grapes you find in concord grape jelly and grape juice and yes, certain types of very sweet wine.  But, commercial varieties of those products don't always reveal the true taste of the concord grape.  (I never tasted "true" grape jelly until I was about 14 years old - and then, never went back to the commercial type.)

For that, and a grape pie, you need fresh Concord grapes, which are available in many farmers markets here in the Binghamton, New York area at this time of year.  These grapes can be more expensive than supermarket grapes but they are a native heirloom.  Support your local grape farmer!

Concord grapes were developed, in 1849, from a wild, North American grape.  I am not any kind of grape expert, but I do know there were problems with disease affecting European grapes that the early settlers tried to grow.  The Concord grape, developed in Concord, Massachusetts escaped those problems because of their native American heritage, plus they matured relatively early, perfect for escaping the first frosts.

In 1869, a New Jersey dentist, Dr.Welch, developed a bottled unfermented grape juice, using the then new process of pasteurization.

Some people do not enjoy eating these grapes fresh, because they have a very tart skin, but I love them. I find the texture of the grape inside to be something like muscadine grapes, but more bursting in flavor (and smaller, too). If I start eating a bunch, I can't stop.

I don't worry too much about eating a lot of these grapes, because Concord grapes are high in nutrition and low in calories.  They are high in polyphenol, an antioxidant.  They contain vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. One cup of concord grapes, according to online sources, contains 62 calories. As they are a good natural source of oxalates, these sources warn that people prone to kidney stones should watch intake of Concord grapes. (Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.)

Since the initial Concord grapes, a seedless variety (smaller than the original) has been developed, but both varieties were for sale yesterday at a local farm stand.

In fact, I love fresh Concord grapes so much I never get around to making grape pie.  I'm not that good of a pie baker, anyway.  But if you want to try your hands at it, try this recipe.

If you really want to eat pie, you need to visit Naples, New York, home of the Grape Pie.

Monica's, Naples, New York, late August 2016
If you do, travel to a store called Monica's.   The purple door should give you a clue as to what they specialize in. (They are also known for their chicken pot pies).  The air smells just like grapes.

I could live in that store.

Buy a pie.  You'll never regret it.  There are two types, regular crust topping and crumb - your choice.

Does your area of the world have a favorite pie?


  1. Ha, ha, ha, it looks like Monica's runs out of a house, so maybe you could move in one day. :) One of my coworkers loves to bake pies, and she introduced me to chess pie. Evidently it's a Southern delicacy, but I grew up in Texas and never heard about it till my Minnesotan colleague made it!

    1. There is nothing like a southern pie. I can still think of the pies I ate when I lived in Arkansas so many years ago. At the Ozarks Folk Center, I had the most delicious peanut butter meringue pie- and I have never found it in upstate New York.

  2. Sounds delicious! I love grapes that are locally picked and not the imported ones at the store. I live in Michigan so we're an apple pie state! Actually, I don't think I've even had grape pie even, perhaps I should see what I can find!

    1. Ah, local fruit. We don't get cherries where I live upstate - I wonder if you do. Wouldn't a cherry pie be wonderful, too?

  3. Alana,
    I haven't heard of grape pie but I also love concord grapes. My mother used to tie grapes in the spring and pick them in the fall.
    I would love to try grape pie!
    I wonder if I can find it in Pennsylvania...?
    Take care and thanks for this post.

    1. I don't know if the grape pie "belt" reaches to where you live in Pennsylvania, Amy. I have never seen them where I live (near Binghamton). People just give you funny looks. I happen to have passed through Naples today, and they are selling them everywhere - in stores, and even on the streets of the village in farmstands set up in peoples' front yards!

  4. OMG those grapes are huge and so inviting. I have never had a grape pie though!

    1. Tina, there are two types of concords. The really big ones have small seeds. Then there are smaller ones that are seedless. I think the seedless ones are a little more tart but they are both so good. I eat the seedless ones with my breakfast cereal while in season.

  5. I don't think there's a regional pie for us. Maybe something with boysenberries. But probably not.

  6. I had never known about grape pie.. just the apple pie.. :)n it sounds so yummy.. your posts always provide so many facts, trivia and knowledge..

  7. Obviously, Traverse City and the cherry orchards all love cherry pie. Me, too. I understand that the grape harvest this year was also quite good, so lots of grapes in the markets and lots of good wine to come. I recently made sausage and grapes for my kids. We were all surprised at how good it was.


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