Suddenly everything seems to have changed. New flowers are blooming bright yellow in the weedy ways, Bidens and Sida, partridge pea and golden rod.
Ripe poke and beauty berries bend the slender branches waiting for the birds.
The golden and gossamer webs of the orb weavers stretch high up between the trees, and the weavers themselves are large and long-legged silhouettes against the sky.
The hot, damp air swirls with butterflies and unfamiliar cool breezes. The goats forage under the cherry trees for the fallen yellow leaves emblazoned with burning red in the grass.
In the pastures, dog fennel and ragweed grow in leaning fragrant stooks as tall as i am. Everything is as high and as full and as large as it gets – riots of flowers and fruit and seeds, and green everywhere, but not the young green of spring but green with brown around the edges.
The long light of the summer has been captured, in wood and grass and honey and butter and pork.
The wild grapes are very sweet and abundant this year. Perhaps the cold winter or the wet summer, but they are hanging in beautiful clusters from low branches.
I know that pie doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of grapes, but think of it like a tart made with Concord jelly.
The Usual Instructions For Crust:
I start with a good-sized mixing bowl. I dump what looks about 4 cups of flour into it. I add a generous pinch of salt, the kind of pinch you use the flats of three of your fingers for instead of the tips of thumb and forefinger.
Next I add a hunk of butter about the size of a good-sized egg, the size of a mature laying hen, not a pullet egg. I work the butter into the flour with my fingers, crumbling it into the flour.
I know it has enough butter worked it when it looks like bread crumbs but when I squeeze it in my fist it clings together in a dry, crumbly clod. I leave large crumbs for flaky texture, and small crumbs for tenderness.
Now I add a splash of cream cold from the fridge, or maybe milk if we are short on cream. Sometimes water of there is no milk, but you won’t get as good of a pie crust with water. I add it very careful, so the dough won’t get too wet, kneading gently with my hands as I add it just a little splash at a time.
I’ll add a little flour again if I accidentally put to big a splash in and the dough is too wet, but that isn’t ideal. It should be a rich, buttery dough that won’t stick to your hands and works easily.
Which ever you make, pre-bake it for about 15-20 minutes in a hot 350F oven so it is fully cooked.
The grapes are very easy to make into filling or jam of you have a food mill. I can’t imaging trying to do this with a strainer, but i guess you could try.
A Foley food mill or other kind of food mill is a very time-saving piece of kitchen equipment, because you can cook fruits whole and just put it through the mill to remove seeds and peels. It makes making tomato sauce from scratch really easy – you just boil whole tomatoes and mill them, rather than all the fussing about with boiling water to peel them and the tedious de-seeding some people suffer with.
For the Rest of the Pie:
3 1/2 cups ripe wild grapes (though you could use the domestic Muscadine grapes as well if you don’t find any wild ones)
1/4 cup water, plus tablespoons for mixing with arrowroot flour
2 Tablespoons arrowroot flour
1 cup honey (or slightly more or less to taste. I imagine it depends on the grapes), plus 1 tablespoon honey
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vinegar
1. Put the grapes and water in a sauce pan with a lid, and boil until the grapes are soft and cooked. Let them cool a bit before running them through a food mill (or a strainer, i guess) to remove the peels and seeds.
2. Put the remaining pulp back in the sauce pan and add the honey. Whisk the arrowroot flour and tablespoons of water with a fork and then whisk it into the grape pulp.
3. Bring it back to a boil, stirring constantly so it won’t made lumps, until it thickens. Then you can pour it into the baked pie shell.
4. Heat the oven again to 350 F and meanwhile beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks. Beat in the vinegar and honey and vanilla until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy.
5. Spoon the meringue on top, and make peaks with the back of the spoon. Bake about 1-15 minutes until the meringue is browned on top.
Serve when cool. The wild grapes have so much flavor.