Muscadine Grape Hull Pie

October 18, 2010 at 8:35 pm 6 comments

 

Muscadine Grape Hull Pie, juicy and wonderful, worthy of the time it takes. I love the old-school way it uses everything but the seeds.

 

This pie is an heirloom well worth dusting off and setting out in a place of honor at today’s table. Made with a dedication to thrift and flavor, it uses the thick, sturdy hulls of the muscadine grape, which is native to North America and still thriving both out in the wild, and in domesticated varieties tended on backyard grape arbors throughout the South. You’ll find them referred to as slipskin grapes, since a firm squeeze on a plump, ripe grape causes the juicy seed-filled grape to pop right out. Though muscadine skins are too tough to chew up when eating the grapes out of hand, thrifty and flavor-conscious cooks figured out how to make use of them along with the grape pulp. They separated skins from pulp, and then cooked the pulp just enough to squeeze out and discard the big round seeds. Then pulp and hulls were cooked with sugar, a bit of flour, and butter, to make a thick, juicy pie.

Between the steps involved in preparation, the shortness of their season in early fall, and the challenges for most cooks of even finding these heirloom grapes nowadays, the practical pie has faded from its status through the first half of the 20th century as a common Southern home dessert. They’re out there, though, so look for muscadine grapes in farmers’ markets and at roadside stands throughout the South, as well as in grocery stores and specialty food stores, through the first half of the fall. For this pie, I found deep purple muscadine grapes at the local Whole Foods market, from a commercial grower in Georgia. Look for the lovely golden-hued scuppernong grapes as well; they will work just fine, being simply a delicious grape version within the muscadine grape family.

 

This pie comes out saucey, much like a cobbler, so consider serving it in shallow bowls. Ice cream, whipped cream, or a splash of half and half or evaporated milk to put that sauce to good use.

 

Here’s a look at some steps in the process. You can skip to the end if you’re ready for the recipe.

 

Muscadine Grape Hull Pie in the works: Big white bowl of whole grapes; small saucer of stemmed tops, cut and discarded to ease the squeezing out of pulp; pan of grape pulp with seeds, ready for first cooking; bowl of muscadine grape hulls reserved for adding to filling once seeds are removed from pulp

 

 

Muscadine grapes with stem ends trimmed off; ready to squeeze out pulp for cooking and seeding, with hulls reserved for pie filling

 

 

Juicy pulp ready for cooking, to soften it and help release the seeds

 

 

Hulls from muscadine grapes, ready to be added to the cooked, seeded pulp and then simmered down into pie filling

 

 

Grape hulls, seeded pulp and juices, cooked to soften them before adding sugar/flour mixture and turning into piecrust

 

Nancie’s Muscadine Grape Hull Pie

Pastry for a double-crust pie

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 cups muscadine grapes (about 2 pounds), rinsed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or cider vinegar or white vinegar

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits

 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place bottom crust into a pie pan, with the edge of the piecrust hanging over the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Mix the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and stir with a fork to mix them well.

Holding it over a medium bowl, squeeze a grape with its stem end down, so that the pulp pops out and falls into the bowl. (If the pulp doesn’t pop right out with only a squeeze, cut the stem ends off the grapes and discard the ends. Then squeeze the grape and the pulp should pop right out.)  Set the hulls aside in a bowl, and place the grape pulp and juices into a medium saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the pan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook until the pulp has soften and begun to break down, so that the seeds can be easily separated, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl let cool until you can handle them. Work through the bowl of pulp, extracting and discarding the large round seeds.

Add the grape hulls to the saucepan, and continue cooking to soften the hulls, for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar mixture. Pour the grape filling into the piecrust . (Do not overfill it. Reserve any excess and make a small pie in a custard cup, or cook just the fruit as a simple pudding to eat with cream.) Scatter the bits of butter over the pie filling, and cover with the top crust. Press hard all around the pie to seal up the crust. Crimp the edges or press them with the tines of a fork to seal it well. Make slits in the top of the pie so that juices can bubble up and steam can escape. Place the pie on a baking sheet lined with foil, so that any juices have somewhere to go besides the bottom of the stove.

Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking until the filling is thickened and bubbling hot, and the crust is nicely browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Set the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel, and let it cool completely.

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Entry filed under: Ingredients, Recipes, Southern Pies. Tags: , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wild Muscadine Cobbler | Gathering Steam  |  September 1, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    […] a variety of pie recipes that call for using the hulls only, but it was Nanci McDemott’s recipe that really inspired me. I liked the idea of using the whole grape and so ventured forth creating […]

    Reply
  • 2. Mara  |  September 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Nanci – I found your post while looking for recipes for the plethora of muscadine grapes we have growing around our house. You inspired me to make this: http://gatheringsteam.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/wild-muscadine-cobbler/
    Thanks very much!

    Reply
    • 3. Nancie McDermott  |  September 13, 2013 at 5:31 am

      This makes me so happy! I adore your photographs and am so pleased that my pie leads to your cobbler. And now I’m going to make your cobbler!

      Reply
  • 4. Eileen  |  September 17, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    My muscadine grapes are much smaller than the ones I find at the farmers market. With mine 2 lbs of grapes equal 6 cups. What is more important, cups or weight? Thanks!

    Reply
    • 5. Nancie McDermott  |  November 29, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Oh, my goodness! I am so sorry to have left you hanging on this and I imagine those grapes are long gone! The weight is the most important. When I wrote the recipe, I was using the big plump cultivated muscadines and scuppernongs we can get here in the supermarkets, as well as at farmer’s markets. All are cultivated and all are the size of a walnut or so. In OCtober I went to a Brunswick stew making celebration and was able to help gather wild muscadines from the woods next to our host’s Piedmont NC home. I was surprised at how petite the wild muscadines were. Even then I didn’t think about how that appplies to a recipe like this. I will want to discuss that variation next time I write about it. I left you to your own devices — hope you got some lovely pies out of it without my help! And that your Thanksgiving holiday was grand. All the best to you!

      Reply
  • 6. Lauren  |  September 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I am so excited to make this pie with the muscadines we gathered today! I love being able to take advantage of the abundance found in my own back yard.

    Reply

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