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Not for the faint of heart – Concord Grape Curd Tart

6.October 2010

This post is brought to you by the department of Don’t Get Too Big For Your Britches.  It’s been a kind of … how to explain it … complicated baking time lately.

It’s not that things have just failed, flat-out.  It’s more like the universe has been conspiring to make everything a little unpredictable and a little less … pretty.  Normally this wouldn’t bother me, but in the last several weeks, I’ve burned sugar cookies (TWO batches of them), nearly ruined a pumpkin cheesecake (for a party with my new colleagues – no pressure), and had a couple things just not work out exactly how I expected.

Now, I will admit that I didn’t know HOW this was going to work out when I started – you have to expect the unexpected when working without a recipe.

That’s right, friends, I was flying by the seat of my pants.

I wanted to make a lemon tart for an impromptu party, but Ach! No lemons!  But, it being fall in New England, it’s the time of year for Concord Grapes.  As you may have heard, we have a beautiful, old grapevine growing over an arbor in the back yard and I’m all about foraging in the back yard (especially for tasty purple deliciousness).  So I thinks to meself, “It’s fruit juice!  How different could it be from lemon juice?  How hard could it be?”

It wasn’t hard as such.  And it did work out.  The texture of the tart was fabulous and the crust was (predictably) delicious.  But what I didn’t take into account was the color that you get when you mix dark purple-red with white (sugar and egg whites) and – horrors – yellow egg yolks.

Ahem.

Now, we’ve all talked before about lemon tarts and my deep and abiding love for them and if you’ve close-read my recipe, you’ll know that at some point, the curd filling will turn whitish, i.e. opaque.  It turns out that when you reach this point with Concord Grape Curd, it turns a slightly lavender-hued gray.  When it cooled after baking, this sort of cement color stayed on top with a slightly darker shade of death lurking below the surface.

What I’m trying to tell you, in a rather roundabout way is that this is the ugliest thing I’ve ever created.  Ever.

… Ever.

… I mean, so ugly even it’s mother wouldn’t love it.  So ugly part of you wants to dramatically look away in disgust, never mind how rude that might be.  So ugly, that the other part of you wants to stare at it’s bubbled, pus-y looking surface and gawk, like you would at a car accident, wondering “what the hell happened there?”

But, you know what? Like with so many things in life, what was outside wasn’t what mattered.  The taste was spectacular!  Like I said, the texture was perfect and as the curd melted on your tongue it tasted like grape candy and butter at the same time.  It’s definitely a difficult flavor to describe, but it was delicious.  (I had three pieces of it, myself, but I wasn’t the only one!  Between seven of us we demolished the whole thing in a little over an hour.)

So, yeah. I wouldn’t make this again without a contingency plan for how to cover the gross-looking top.  For instance a layer of lightly browned meringue or some fluffy whipped cream would do the trick and the contrast of the white against the filling might pull out the purple tones.  It’s worth a try, I think.  So, yes, be aware that this is NOT a pretty dessert, but the taste is intriguing enough that it might just be worth a try!  Really!

Oh, and in the “too big for your britches” department, I thought I would be really clever and not use a food mill to make my grape juice, but I remembered what a pain it is to clean.  So I thought I would be clever and put them in a food processor, then strain them.  Obviously, that exploded from the heat.  Unfortunately they weren’t chopped enough so I transferred the semi-mushed grapes to the blender.  Aaand, it exploded again, showering me, the side of the fridge, the whole kitchen counter, and the dogs (seriously, I had a purple-stained shih tzu and chunks of grape pulp stuck in my schnauzer’s beard) with grapey mess.  So yeah.  Don’t do that.

Anyway, we’ll be back soon with our regularly scheduled non-embarrassingly ugly treats soon.  For the meanwhile, please be kind in the comments.  I know it’s hideous.

Concord Grape Curd Tart

For the tart shell:

  • 12 oz. flour (approx. 2 1/4 c)
  • 8 oz. butter (2 sticks, very cold, cut into chunks)
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • approx 4 oz. ice water (this is VERY approximate – add a tiny bit at a time)
  1. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until well combined.
  2. Add butter a couple of chunks at a time and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  3. Drizzle in ice water and pulse until dough just comes together into large chunks.  Do NOT let it look wet.
  4. Dump the dough into your tart pan and squish it into all the corners and generally even it out so that it’s flat and roughly the same thickness all over and up the sides.  Put the tart shell in the freezer for fifteen minutes.

For the curd:

  • 2/3 c concord grape juice
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  1. Make the grape juice: heat about a quart of grapes on the stove until they burst and release their juices.  Then, don’t do what I did and put them in a blender or a food processor (I tried both).  Mash them with a potato masher and then strain them with a cheesecloth.  OR run them through a food mill.  Measure out 2/3 c grape juice and reserve the rest for another use.
  2. In the top bowl of a double-boiler (in my case, a tempered-glass bowl positioned on top of a saucepan of simmering water) melt the butter very slowly.
  3. When the butter is melted, keep the pan on the fire, but on low. Add the grape juice, sugar, and salt.
  4. Mix the ingredients very slowly, with circular motions until the mixture is fully combined and the sugar is melting.
  5. Add the eggs very slowly and whisk constantly, but slowly.
  6. Continue cooking the curd on low/medium-low heat until it thickens up and turns whitish and less transparent.  **This is when you’ll start to worry that you’re having an ugly baby.
  7. While preparing the curd, remove the tart shell from the freezer and partially bake the shell at 375, about fifteen minutes
  8. When the curd thickens up and looks creamy, pour it into the pastry shell and bake the tart at 375 for about 20 minutes. The shell will hopefully brown a bit and the top of the curd may brown and begin to bubble.
  9. Wait until it’s cooled to serve. Like I said, please top it with something opaque so that you don’t have to look at the ugly.
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13 Comments leave one →
  1. wjh permalink
    6.October 2010 17:59

    pictures of lucy with purple hair please!! (is she an old lady already? ;))

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      6.October 2010 18:49

      Alas – I didn’t manage to get a photo of her with the purple stains. It was pretty funny.

  2. Jamie permalink
    6.October 2010 20:40

    I’d second the request for pictures of grapey dogs, and I’d also brave the appearance of the tart for a taste. Should you make it again, like, this weekend or anything.

    Perhaps you should rename the recipe “Humble Pie”?

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      8.October 2010 15:52

      Jamie – maybe we should make one together and try to make it less fugly?

  3. Paul Schutz permalink
    7.October 2010 10:31

    GREAT post. Hilarious and pretty delicious-sounding, too. I’m sorry there are no grape dog pictures, too!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      8.October 2010 15:52

      Paul – Thanks for the comment! It was both hilarious and delicious.

  4. 11.October 2010 21:58

    Oh, the carnage! This made me laugh out loud, Em.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      11.October 2010 22:42

      Jess- Glad it brought a few laughs. Feels like there’s just bad cooking mojo in the air these days. Nothing quite works!

  5. Jessica permalink
    14.April 2011 22:21

    I just found this post, looking for grape curd recipes (I’m experimenting with different fruit curds). I don’t have any concord grapes, but I have a lot of good red seedless. Think it’ll still work? Oh, and your tart sounds tasty, even if it doesn’t look it lol

  6. Xan permalink
    5.November 2011 19:54

    I knew someone would have figured this out! I’ve been telling my friends I want to do a concord-grape meringue pie, with grape curd and they all told me I’m crazy. I’ll let you know how it turns out with the meringue. Thanks!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      1.June 2012 17:20

      At least the meringue would hide the horrors beneath! Hope it was delish!

  7. Anne permalink
    27.February 2014 06:02

    They’re a slip skin grape… and the inside flesh is pale. Can cook the flesh down and run through food mill to remove seeds. The skins.. in blender w/ sugar is really good (maybe use in a sauce to go with it?)

    I will have to play with this with the grapes this fall. Ty for the recipe!

  8. Cheryl Keith permalink
    26.June 2014 21:20

    I amd woncering if your ugly color could be transformed to something more appetizing by the simple addition of some food color paste (as used by professional bakers in frostings). It seems to me that you could add the color after the cooking was complete and before you chilled the finished product.

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