Season: Fall | Active Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (not including making the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough or All-Purpose Crumble Topping) | Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes, plus time to cool | Difficulty: 3 (Moderate)
Concord grapes have one of the most piercing, intense flavors in the entire fruit kingdom, and until a genius invents a seedless variety, I will endure the tedium of peeling them (for an explanation of why peeling is necessary, see this page). It’s more than worth it for this pie, which features apples and Concord grapes. Both are harbingers of fall at the farmers’ market, and like most fruit that grows in the same season and in the same climate, grapes and apples pair extremely well together. This pie, topped with an earthy buckwheat crumble, might be one of my favorite flavor combinations ever.
Special Equipment: 9-inch pie plate, pie weights or 4 cups dried beans or rice (for parbaking)
2½ pounds (1.13kg) Pink Lady or any sweet-tart, firm baking apples (about 6 medium), peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
¼ cup packed light brown sugar (1.8 oz / 50g)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 oz / 28g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 pound (454g) Concord grapes (picked from about 1 quart on the stem) ①
⅓ cup granulated sugar (2.3 oz / 66g)
3 tablespoons cornstarch (0.63 oz / 18g)
Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough (this page), parbaked in a 9-inch pie plate and cooled ②
All-Purpose Crumble Topping, Buckwheat Variation (this page)
Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, for serving
Make the apple mixture: In a large bowl, toss together the apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until the apples are evenly coated. Set the mixture aside and allow the apples to release their juices while you prepare the grape mixture.
Peel and cook down the Concord grapes: ③ Working over a small saucepan, grasp one grape at a time and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger, stem end out, to pop the soft flesh into the saucepan, leaving the skin behind. Reserve the empty grape skins in a medium bowl. Place the saucepan of flesh over medium-low heat.
Bring it to a simmer and cook, occasionally mashing the grapes against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy and broken down and the seeds are free-floating around the saucepan, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool slightly.
Strain the flesh and combine with the skins and sugar: Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl with the reserved grape skins. Add the pulp to the sieve and press and scrape with a flexible spatula to force the pulp into the bowl below, leaving only the seeds behind. Transfer the pulp and grape skin mixture back to the same saucepan (discard seeds). Add the granulated sugar.
Reduce the apple juices: Pour any juices that have accumulated in the bowl with the apple mixture into the saucepan with the grape skin mixture and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture starts to look syrupy and is reduced by about one-third, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Make a slurry and activate the cornstarch: Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and spoon 3 tablespoons of the hot grape mixture into the bowl. Stir with a fork until smooth, then whisk into the saucepan. Return the saucepan to medium heat and bring to a simmer again. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture has thickened, about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
Mix the filling and fill the pie: Pour the warm grape mixture over the apples and fold with a flexible spatula until all the apples are coated. Transfer half the mixture to the pie crust, arranging the apple slices so they fill in all the nooks and crannies around the bottom of the crust, then scrape the remaining filling on top, mounding it in the center.
Pack on the crumble topping: Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the apples. It will seem like a lot, but really pack all of it onto the apples and press firmly so it stays in place—packing the topping not only helps compress the filling and reduce air pockets, but it also forms the crumble into a solid layer that bakes into a firm lid and slices cleanly.
Tent with foil and bake: Place the pie on the lined baking sheet and loosely tent the top with a piece of foil (this will prevent it from darkening too quickly). Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the pie and continue to bake until the crumble topping is firm and browned and the juices are thick and bubbling around the sides, another 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool for at least 2 hours.
Serve: Cut the pie into slices and serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.
The pie, covered loosely and stored at room temperature, will keep up to 4 days but is best served on the first or second day.
① Take a whiff of the grapes at the market and pick ones that are particularly fruity smelling. More aroma means more flavor.
② To simplify this recipe considerably, skip the process of making and parbaking the Flaky All-Butter Pie Dough and turn this pie into a crumble. Follow all the same directions, baking it in a shallow 2-quart baking dish topped with the crumble.
③ Please don’t skip this part! It may seem unreasonably fussy to peel the grapes, but if you were to just cook down the whole grapes, you’d end up straining out the skins and therefore much of their flavor (not to mention all the color). I tested it this way to see if I could avoid peeling, and the result just doesn’t compare.