Friday, September 29, 2006


Nannie Blackwell's Grape Pie

So get this.

When I showed up in Florida last month, (the sunshiney state my parents decided to move to when they retired) I asked my mother if she had a "family heirloom recipe" we could make.

Trouble was, she only has one...

The infamous "Nannie Blackwell’s Grape Pie."

Which has subsequently been renamed the "Once in a lifetime pie"

Why infamous? Why "Once-In-A-Lifetime?" Well, because, just reading the directions (as typed out by my Great Aunt) it’s obvious it is the most insanely labor-intensive recipe ever.



And yet, we made it anyway and you know what? SO worth it! And seasonal!

See, when it comes to actual, tedious, repetitive work, I’m not exactly a "Hey, that sounds like fun!" kinda girl. (And people wonder why I don’t tell potential employers about my blog…) and this recipe takes the cake (or, you know, pie,) in the "work" department. Which leads me to suspect my great-grandmother might have had some helping hands when it came to making this delight...

So in that grand tradition, I somehow rallied my sweet mother (bless her heart) to peel the grapes (yes kids: Peel. The. Grapes. All four cups of the juicy little suckers.) and I just did the rest, and you know, made the crust.

What? Like that isn’t work?

I am supremely thankful to my darling mother, since she was quite the good sport about this whole she-bang. Nannie, on the other hand, well, I suspect she is somewhere laughing herself silly.
Now, should you be prone to thinking peeling grapes sounds like an idyllic way to spend an afternoon (and trust me, it will take the better part of one, if you choose the wrong type of grapes, like I did) this really is an amazingly tasty pie and worth every moment of dedicated time. Or, you can do as Nannie indicated and use Concord grapes (if you can find them), which I just learned are of the "slip-skin" variety and therefore, most likely, very-easy-to-peel. Unlike the Thompson seedless that we used.

Truth be told, it was just the best thing ever, taste wise. We all adored it because it was not only lip-smacking good, it was made with a touch of history and a whole lot of love. (Though in all seriousness, book an appt at the nail salon for first thing the next day. Your fingernails are going to be so black – for a week otherwise, you will want to shed those big fat, super-wet tears.)

Bright and zippy, vibrant and delicious, I recommend it for someone who has hours to spare and a sense of, um, what’s that word? Oh yes, insanity – about them. Or household staff. I think they may be the real key here.

Either which way, I do encourage you to try this (at your own risk) and I guarantee, you will enjoy. It is a classic indeed. (Though, as you can see, I updated it a bit too...)

4 cups grapes (Concord work best)
1 cup sugar (more or less as needed)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Your favorite pie crust
Milk for glazing

Remove the skins from the grapes and reserve.

Preheat your oven to 450F.

Put the pulp in a saucepan and simmer until soft. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds. (We did this step even though we used seedless grapes. If you use seedless, you can skip the peeling and just simmer)

Combine the strained pulp back with the skins.

In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice and corn starch mixing well to create a slurry. Add the the grapes along with the sugar. Stir, taste and add more sugar as needed.

Pour the grape mixture into a pastry-crust lined pie plate, cover with top crust and bake for 10 minutes at 450F on a foil lined baking sheet. Remove the pie and brush the top crust with milk. Return to the oven at 350 for an additional 30 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Makes one pie.


Pureed grapes are cooked with sugar until thick, or “jammed” together. A grape jam patent was first issued to Paul Welch in 1917 for the pureeing of grapes. He called the product “Grapelade.” The initial quantity was purchased entirely by the U.S. Army and shipped to France for consumption by the troops during World War I. The product was then demanded by the troops when they returned to civilian life. -

The average American eats six slices of pie per year.

Three out of four Americans overwhelmingly prefer homemade pie, while 13 percent enjoy pie from a bakery or pastry shop, and only one percent said they head to the diner for their favorite slice.


I love it! What a woman! Thanks Rachael!
Thanks Ilva!
Looking forward to trying blog.
but is there a compelling reason to substitute
the flour with corn starch? thanks.
dave nyc
I just find that corn starch is a better binder, and that it doesnt cloud up the results. If you prefer flour, of course use it!
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