Grape Pie Filling and Grape Pie | Make Ahead Mondays


I’ve been blessed to have the chance to move around a little bit in this great country of ours and see a bit of the world. Although I’ve lived in rural Western New York longer than I have anywhere else, I was born a Michigan girl and I believe I’ll always identify myself as a Michigander. There are, however, a few moments where I’m close to claiming that New Yorker moniker.

It probably comes as no surprise that most of those moments are surrounding food; beef on weck, white hots, wings, salt potatoes and grape pie. Grape pie was -perhaps- the biggest revelation of all of those quintessential New York foods. Made of Concord grapes, it retains that highly perfumed, heady scent that fires up instant salivation. It’s the smell that every grape soda and candy in the history of soda and candy has tried and failed to capture. There’s something about those fresh Concord grapes that makes my brain absolutely swim with joy. It is pure autumn.

New York is carpeted with vineyards and u-pick grape farms. If you drive through the right area of the state with your windows down in September you will smell that distinctive aroma. The perfume drifting across the countryside combined with the Crayola-tinged leaves and the brisk air is a clear indicator that the season has turned.

Grape pie is a food I used to wait for every single year. That is until I learned to make and can my own grape pie filling. Why this hasn’t caught on commercially is beyond me. Grape pie is tart and sweet, juicy and velvety, with the soft, simmered grape skins providing body and texture. It’s a little high on the labour side, when you’re used to just tossing berries into a pot with sugar and Clear Jel, but part of the initial joy of the grape pie is the experience of sitting in a circle around two big pots on the front porch slipping the skins from the grapes two at a time. Holding a grape in each hand, we laugh as we gently squeeze the juicy insides into one pot and deposit the grape skins in the other. Maybe it takes us a half an hour? Maybe an hour? Time has a mind of its own with a mug of whatever gets you out of bed in the morning -coffee or tea- wedged between your feet and enjoying that weather and each others’ company so thoroughly.

Into the kitchen with the pots… the grape guts simmer until the seeds come free and then are poured through a colander to filter out the pesky seeds. The remaining pulp and juice go into the pot with the skins and just enough sugar, a little lemon juice or citric acid and some Clear Jeland bubble away ’til boiling and thick. Fill the jars, wipe the rims, add the lids and tenderly lower those jars into the canner. When they’ve processed, wipe them clean, label them and put them on the shelves for mid-winter attacks of grape pie cravings coupled with reminiscences of autumn splendor.

And geez. Don’t feel obliged to make pies only. Grape pie filling transforms into a lovely cake filling or ice cream topping. You wouldn’t be too far amiss spreading it on a sandwich and I certainly wouldn’t judge if you made turnovers or ‘jam’ filled cookies with it.

When it’s time for the fabled pie you ease your favourite crust into a pie plate, open a jar of the royal purple filling and empty it in. Crimp the edges, cut a few vents in whatever style dings your chimes…

The trickiest part of the whole process comes right now. It’s the waiting; waiting for the pie to bake, then waiting for the pie to cool, then waiting that seemingly interminable wait for that wedge of fragrant, sweet, caramelized-sugar dusted crust to be delivered to your hands.

In the end, it is all worth it; it delivers on all of the tantalizing promises of scent and vision. Every second of what sweet torturous anticipation was worth it when your fork drops into a flaky pie crust surrounding thickened, silky grape juice surrounding tender grape skins. Lips and teeth and tongues are stained purple like your finger tips were months earlier when you put up the pie filling. These are the moments that hook you on canning.

Grape Pie Filling and Grape Pie | Make Ahead Mondays
This classic autumnal Western New York pie captures the pure perfumed, robust sweet and tart essence of Concord grapes. Do yourself a favour and serve the pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. The cool, sweet, vanilla is the perfect foil to the tart, sweet grape pie. It's a match made in heaven.
For the Pie Filling:
  • 22 cups Concord grapes, washed
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice (or 1 teaspoon citric acid)
  • 1 cup ClearJel starch (or another brand of the same type of starch)
For the Grape Pie:
  • 1 quart of grape pie filling
  • Pie pastry for a double crust
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • raw sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling over the crust, optional
To Prepare and Can Grape Pie Filling:
  1. Working over two pots, take a grape in each hand and gently squeeze it over the first pot. Deposit the grape skins in the second pot. Continue until you have separated all of the grape pulps from the grape skins.
  2. Place the pot with the grape pulps (do not add water!) over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, allowing it to boil for 5 to 6 minutes. Put the hot pulp through a food mill or pour it through a colander, pressing to get as much pulp through as possible. Pour the hot, sieved pulp over the reserved grape skins.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and ClearJel (and citric acid, if using.) Sprinkle over the grape pulp mixture and use a big whisk or sturdy spoon to mix in thoroughly. Put the pot over medium heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick. It should thicken quickly, but it does still need to be bubbling before you can put it in jars.
  4. Place a canning funnel -for neatness' sake- over the opening of a clean, sterilized quart jar and ladle in the hot pie filling leaving 1-inch of headspace. For help on learning how to sterilize your jars, click this link Moisten a paper towel and wipe the rims of the jars so they are spotless. Center a new lid on the jar and screw the ring in place until fingertip-tight.
  5. Place the jars in a canning pot, ensure they are completely covered with water, bring to a boil and process for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let the jars rest for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack or a towel on the counter. Let cool, undisturbed, overnight before removing rings, wiping clean and labeling. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to two years.
To Make the Grape Pie:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out half of the pie pastry and lay it gently in the pie plate so that it covers the whole plate and drapes a little outside of the top, too. Pour the jar of grape pie filling into the crust and spread it with a spatula. Roll out the second crust to just slightly larger than the circumference of the top of the pie plate. Lay it on top of the pie filling and gather the excess pastry, folding it under to form a neat edge. Crimp with a fork or whatever style you prefer, cut a few vent holes in whatever shapes you like.
  2. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and then sprinkle generously with the sugar, if using. This creates a deeper coloured crust and a little bit of sparkle.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F and continue baking for another 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is deep brown and the filling is bubbly. If you find the crust is browning too quickly, you can gently crimp foil around the outside edge to protect the edges.
  4. Carefully transfer the pie plate to a cooling rack and let cool completely -if ever you can make yourself wait- before slicing. The filling will still slump out, but may hold together a bit better if you let it cool first.
  5. For the ultimate Western New York experience, serve each slice of pie with a scoop of Perry's Vanilla Ice Cream on top.
  6. Store leftovers tightly covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.


    • says

      Thanks, Kristen! It is definitely a NY thing. (I don’t know if it’s a NYC thing, but the rest of the state loves it!) It’s hard to explain how good it is… Think texture of a blueberry pie with the aroma and flavour of grape jelly. But better.
      I’m not doing it justice. I think you should just make one!

  1. Sami says

    Oh! I have not had a white hot in years! I lived in Rochester for 10 years and miss so many things about that area. Grape pies!!! I still make them but most people just don’t get it. What a wonderful intense flavor they make in a pie! I remember the joy of driving down to Naples, stopping at a couple vineyards (Bully Hill still there?)visiting a diner for a slice of pie then as we leave Naples buying a whole pie to take home…NO wait we need two!
    When I moved to Cleveland I had to learn how to make these delightful grapey treasures for that first Cleveland fall I went into grape pie withdrawal.

  2. Jaed says

    When you say the canning recipes requires 22 cans washed concord grapes you are measuring them as whole grapes, right? not 22 cups after they have been deseeded. And I too would like to know how many quarts this makes so I know how many jars to have ready. Also can this recipe be doubled? Thanks so much, I can’t wait to get started on this!

    • says

      You’re right. 22 cups washed concord grapes, not processed ones. It makes roughly 4 quarts. It’s not EXACT, because there’s always a little give and take. Sometimes you’ll get another pint. Sometimes a little less. It’s a good idea to have -for example- 4 quart jars and 4 pint jars ready to go just so all your bases are covered.

    • says

      This is not a typo… It yields about 4 pies worth (or 4 quarts) of pie filling. And as to warm or cold? That’s a matter of personal preference. I think I like it best just about room temperature. :-)

  3. says

    Oh, man, I’ve been curious about grape pie ever since I saw it mentioned in a book where someone’s upstate NY mother made it.

    How about if I just wanted to make 1 pie? Concord grapes are ridiculously expensive around here, I don’t have the setup for proper caning, plus I don’t think it makes sense to make 4 quarts of something I’m not even sure I like. Would that mean I need (*does the math quickly in my head*) 5.5 cups of grapes to make 1 pie? Can I quarter the recipe as is?

  4. Alicia says

    I’ve made grape pie for several years (we are fortunate enough to have Concord grapes right in our back yard here in the Buffalo area!), but this is the first year I plan to can the filling. Do you think I could omit the starch if I am using a pressure canner? My recipe is a little different, so I would add flour before I made the pie (after canning). Any thoughts on how long to have it in the pressure canner? A delicious addition to the filling is 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg :)

    • says

      Ah… gotcha… I was going to advise to omit the flour, but if you’re adding it prior to baking vs. prior to canning, that seems fine! I’m curious.. why would you pressure can vs. boiling water bathe it?

      • Alicia says

        Thanks for the quick reply! I’m new to canning this year and we got a pressure canner, so I figure that I might as well use it, lol. So, no really specific reason (although, I don’t think I have another pot big enough for water baths even if I wanted to do it that way). Maybe I will do a couple of test batches just to see how it goes.

        • says

          Just a fun heads-up… You can use a pressure canner pot to boiling water bathe canned goods, too! I think pressure canning pie filling might make the filling a little mushy and might lead to mishaps because thicker foods can have issues in the pressure canner…

  5. Terrie says

    I’ve gone canning crazy this year & finished up the season with a delicious batch of caramelized pear jam. At least I thought I was done. My husband says it’s my new obsession and was happy to hear there was nothing left to can. Oh but now we’re driving through St. James, MO tomorrow and lo and behold it’s grape season. I haven’t made grape pie in years but still remember how wonderful it was. Crisp autumn air, a crackling fire and grape pie is a recipe for a good day in November. So I’m glad I found your recipe for the canned grape pie filling. My husband on the other hand …. I’ll just give him some pie. 

    • says

      If you’re going to bake the pies immediately you can use the cornstarch… But if you want to can it or freeze it, it’s not recommended to use cornstarch. It breaks down and gets funky flavours when canned or frozen.

  6. Vanessa Sherwood says

    Hi- is there a formula for how much clear jel to use to grapes? I started with 2 lbs of grapes and was about to make my typical recipe of grape pie with tapioca but wanted to can it and now I see that I should use Clear Jel instead but don’t know how much to add to the grapes… Any help would be appreciated! Although maybe I’ll can the grapes with the sugar and then add in starch before baking…

  7. Deb says

    In regards to the clear gel – I cannot find it in any of our stores in Minnesota. Is there something that I can use [pectin?] instead? I plan to can the filling, so any suggestions would be great!

    • says

      Hi Deb! Clear jel (and it’s other-brand-but-same-thing counterparts) are the only food starches approved for canning. If you can’t find it locally (and you can check any bulk foods stores or places that have extensive canning supplies) you can most definitely order it from Amazon! If you’re going to can it, you really should try to lay up some Clear jel. If you go up to that amazon search box in the right side bar and search for “clear jel” I’m certain quite a few options will pop up. (That is an affiliate link box, by the way.)

  8. Helen says

    I just made a ton of grape pie filling about a month ago. I actually freeze mine though rather than can. (I make this and pumpkin puree at the same time over a weekend) I have always been a bit afraid of canning! The nice thing about freezing is that you can pre-portion into the exact amount to fill your pie shell. I take a ziploc bag and set it in one of my pie tins, fill it up until it fits in the pan perfectly then smooth out the air and freeze. Cornstarch will work just as well as clear jel if you don’t have it.

  9. says

    Hi Rebecca! Stumbled onto your blog looking for a recipe for canned muscadine pie filling (couldn’t find any!) but I was able to adapt your recipe for Concord grapes and blogged about it on “Taste This!”, which is part of

    Mentioned “Foodie With Family” and linked back to you for interested folks to get the recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Amy says

    Do you have to use concord grapes, and do they have to be ripe grapes or can you use unripe grapes?
    I have a book that has a recipe for canning unripe grapes, but I’m not sure what to use the grapes for once they are canned.
    Thanks so much!

  11. says

    What a lovely post! Just saw Concord grapes at Marché Jean Talon up here in Montréal shipped in from Ontario, and I couldn’t resist. Grew up in Allegany County and still remember the first time church friends visited my folks with freshly picked Concord grapes in their pick-up. Yummy! You have brought back so many happy memories of Western New York for me. Home sweet home. Hoping I’ll someday work up the courage to can because the pie filling looks and sounds divine!

    • says

      Salut Michelle! Thanks for sharing your grape memories with me! Fresh grapes are such an amazing, head-spinning smell, aren’t they? Do work up the courage to can this pie filling. Just imagine cracking open a jar in mid winter for grape pies!!!!


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