The pies have it: Five recipes to spice up your Thanksgiving

Karen Thibodeau of Old Town wrote to tell the BDN that the Concord grape makes an amazing pie.
Courtesy of Karen Thibodeau
Karen Thibodeau of Old Town wrote to tell the BDN that the Concord grape makes an amazing pie.
Posted Nov. 15, 2011, at 1:17 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 16, 2011, at 10:36 a.m.

After you’re done with the turkey and stuffing, you’ve somehow got to find room in your incredibly full stomach for pie. Almost without fail, there’s an apple and-or pumpkin pie on the table; those familiar, comforting standards of Thanksgiving meals. You loosen your belt and dig in, knowing that this will only lead to an even longer nap in front of the TV.

But for those with slightly more adventurous culinary minds, your Turkey Day dessert spread need not be the same every year. The Bangor Daily News asked its readers to submit their ideas for sweet and savory pie recipes that go beyond the workhorses such as apple, pumpkin and blueberry, and use more adventurous ingredients for a post-dinner treat (or a not-so nutritious breakfast).

One of the last fruits of the fall harvest is the Concord grape, a New England variety available in grocery stores and markets through November. Karen Thibodeau of Old Town wrote to tell the BDN that the sweet purple fruit makes an amazing pie.

“I have to admit I am a bit of a pie fanatic and love it in most any form, [and] my favorite pie is grape,” said Thibodeau. “I first tasted the purple pie when visiting my daughter while she was living in upstate New York. The pies are made from Concord grapes, the same kind that Welch’s grape juice is made of, and they taste a lot the same. Serve it with vanilla ice cream. It’s delicious.”

Carmelo Muriel of Belfast experiments with pies year-round, and found a winning combination in his recent creation, Asian Pear and Blackberry Pie. The mellow crunch of the Asian pear bonds nicely with the tartness of the blackberries.

“It’s a new pie I made for the first time this year back in the summer, though I think the combo would be good for any time of year,” said Muriel. “I’ve made this pie twice this year and it hasn’t lasted more than a day.”

Jasmine Ireland of Brewer and her mother, Rebecca Wright of Ellsworth, have enjoyed a special family recipe for years — they call it Fort Knox Pie, and it’s a sweet, decadent, chocolate and caramel-laden treat, with a chocolate cookie and pecan crust.

“I don’t have birthday cake — I have had this instead for the last 20 years,” said Ireland. “It’s crazy good. It’s so unbelievably bad for you, but I don’t care. It’s amazing.”

On the savory side of things, you can again use an in-season fruit — Bosc or Anjou pears — and bake it in a pie along with Gorgonzola cheese. Pear and Gorgonzola salad is a common item on restaurant menus, and transferring that flavor combination into a pie is an unusual but satisfying option. A pear pie is prepared in much the same way as an apple pie, and fortunately it’s not necessary to let them ripen before using them.

Finally, what better way to celebrate one of the most traditional of holidays with one of the most traditional of pies — albeit a pie that hasn’t been made with great regularity for nearly a century? Catherine Bell, 92, of Houlton wrote the BDN to share her recipe for Mince Pie — made with ground beef, raisins, molasses and vinegar, and nothing like the sweet Mincemeat Pie that people make today. She’s been making this particular recipe for Mince Pie for more than 70 years. Hunters may be familiar with an individually sized venison mincemeat pie — but Bell’s is more old-fashioned, and is full-sized.

“This recipe was given to me by an old teacher, Marion Foster Carmichael, who taught [rural] schools in Maine when I was a girl,” said Bell. “She was my teacher in fifth and sixth grade, about 1930. It’s very, very good.”

For all recipes included (besides the Fort Knox Pie, which uses a cookie crust), use your favorite pie crust recipe, or store-bought crust. If you need help, we like Martha Stewart’s pie crust recipe.

Concord Grape Pie

Two pie crusts

Two quarts Concord grapes

¾ to 1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Squeeze the grapes out of their skins into a large pot; reserve the skins and put them in the bottom of a pie crust that’s already been placed in a dish. Bring the grape pulp to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce and let simmer for a few minutes. Place the pulps into a sieve and press the juice out, in order to remove the seeds. Mix in the sugar — ¾ cup; add in another ¼ cup for a sweeter pie — and the two tablespoons of tapioca, and mix well. Pour the mixture on top of the grape skins, top with other pie crust. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, then reduce to 350 and bake for another 40-50 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe courtesy Karen Thibodeau.

Asian Pear and Blackberry Pie

1 quart blackberries, fresh or frozen

2 to 3 Asian pears, depending on size, diced

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Combine blackberries and diced pears in a bowl, toss with sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Bake bottom pie crust in dish at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes; remove from oven and fill with berry-pear filling. Top with slitted crust and bake for 45 minutes; serve with whipped cream.

Recipe courtesy Carmelo Muriel.

Fort Knox Pie

Crust:

2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

½ cup melted butter or margarine

Filling:

1 envelope Knox unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

2 cups whipping cream, divided into four ½ cups

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

22 caramels (about 1 cup, and Kraft really are the best)

2 tablespoons butter

Combine wafer crumbs, pecans and butter. Press into 9-inch pie pan and push up sides to form high rim. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes. Cool. In small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand 1 minute. Stir over low heat until completely dissolved. Stir in 1 cup cream. Bring to boiling point; add to blender with chocolate. Process until chocolate is melted. While processing, add ½ cup cream, eggs and vanilla; process until blended. Pour into bowl, chill until thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

In small pan, combine caramels, ¼ cup cream, and butter. Simmer, stirring occasionally until caramels are melted. Pour onto crust. Let cool 10 minutes. With whisk or spoon, beat gelatin mixture until smooth. Pour onto crust; chill until firm. Garnish with remaining cream, whipped.

Recipe courtesy Rebecca Wright and Jasmine Ireland.

Pear and Gorgonzola Pie

½ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

7 pears, peeled and sliced thin

1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl. Add pears and toss to coat. Roll out pie crust in dish, and transfer filling. Sprinkle crumbled Gorgonzola cheese on top, so all parts of pie are covered but you can still see pears underneath. Cover with second crust. Bake for 90 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Mince Pie

½ cup ground beef

½ cup raisins

¼ cup currants

⅔ cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

½ cup chopped apple

1 tablespoon molasses

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves

Dash nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Mix all ingredients except butter together, and place in refrigerator overnight. The next day, place into bottom pie crust; dot top of filling with butter. Put the top crust on and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce to 350 and bake for another 45 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Catherine Bell.

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