I've written in a prior post about my mom's tendency to 'omit accidentally' when sharing recipes with anyone, including her daughters, best friend, mother-in-law…etc. 'Oh, was there supposed to be garlic in the sauce? I thought you could just make it your own! Create a new recipe my darling!' she might say. 'Whoops! Did I forget to mention that it needs to sit overnight before serving? I assumed you would just know that.' Now, I want to emphasize…I do believe that my mom doesn't intend to create such consternation when she shares her recipes. Or, to be more accurate, a recipe that she may have made at some point before altering every ingredient and the methods.
It was my mom's birthday about a week ago. We went to the farmer's market in the morning, and I offered to make her a special birthday dessert. Peaches, pears, melons….and concord grapes. Those were our choices. 'How about a grape pie?' Mom suggested. 'I used to make them all the time.' We had grapes growing in our backyard when I was growing up, and I have very fond memories of the hours and hours of jelly making that Mom would do every year. The grape jelly would vaporize, jars hidden in nooks and crannies, meted out in tablespoons until the next fall.
So, grape pie it was. We bought the beautiful grapes. Picked the grapes from the stems and set them in a bowl to rinse. Mom showed me the recipe 'she used to use' and then vanished, off to clean the basement floor with a toothbrush or something.
After rinsing and picking out the grapes, the recipe said to cook the grapes briefly to slip the skins.
The skins started to come right off. "I must be on the right track," I was foolishly thinking to myself. "This will be super easy!"
At this point, Mom comes floating through the kitchen again. The recipe said to press the grapes through a colander, and I asked Mom which one she would use. "Well, I couldn't really tell you which one to use," she said. "Maybe the one with the larger holes."
I asked how she would press the grapes through the colander, as this was my first time.
"With the bottom of a measuring cup," she suggested.
I tried the measuring cup. Then a wooden spoon. Then the back of a spatula. I eventually resorted to squeezing the seeds out of each individual grape by hand. At this point, I was still feeling confident that all this work would not be in vain. Mom said the pie was delicious. I was following the directions.
The grape squeezing experience took roughly one hour. Maybe more. That is not an exaggeration. Through this time, Mom is wandering through the kitchen occasionally, looking at me and chuckling.
The filling is a mixture of liquified grape bits, a little sugar, lemon juice, and tapioca pearls.
After setting it aside for ten minutes, the recipe calls for pouring the filling into the unbaked pie shell, and topping with a lattice. I was concerned with how soupy and thin the filling seemed to be, but Mom assured me 'No, no, that looks about right.'
I decided to top the pie with stars instead of lattice, and asked Mom if the filling would hold the weight. 'Absolutely!' she said. I gently laid the crust stars on top of the grape mixture and put it in the oven.
Within five minutes the stars had sunk just beneath the surface of the juice. The pie was only supposed to bake for 30 minutes according to the recipe, but when I went to pull it out, the entire thing was still soupy and loose. I cooked it twenty minutes more. 'Mom?' I asked. 'Does this look right to you?'
'I can't tell you what to do with your pie. Does it look done to you?'
'I've already baked it any extra twenty minutes. Did you always bake it extra?'
Mom insisted she followed whatever the recipe said.
Okay then. I pulled it out. It wasn't the prettiest pie I'd ever made, but it wasn't completely embarrassing. The center still seemed very soupy, so I left it in the fridge to set up overnight.
I cut into the pie, and it was pretty soupy, but tolerable. I set up the staging to take the photos of the quote-unquote finished product and then left the slice on the counter for my mom to try.
A few hours went by. "Have you tried the pie?" I asked. "Yes!" she said. This is when I knew it was worse than I thought.
Heading for the kitchen, I got out a fork and steeled myself for the first bite.
It was both too sweet and too sour; the texture was unpleasant and gelatinous without being firm enough; the crust was completely raw.
"Mom!" I called out. "This is completely disgusting!"
All she replied was, "Well, you know what to do."
My mother, who would rather eat the same food for six days than let anything go to waste- who uses lemon rinds in her dishwasher instead of throwing them away- was telling me to throw away a WHOLE PIE.
So I'm standing there, in front of the sink, feeling zero remorse about shoving chunks of it down the disposal, when it hits me. I started laughing hysterically, watching HOURS of effort go down the literal drain. "She's been messing with me this whole time!"*
The moral of the story? Follow your instincts. Bake your pie longer than it says, don't go against your own judgement. I know it was a strong lesson for me…I'm not including the recipe here, but if I ever make a grape pie again, I promise to create a better one.
*I would like to note that my mom firmly states that she had no intention of 'messing with me' and she would 'never intentionally alter a recipe'