When muscadines and scuppernongs come in season each fall, I love to make my Muscadine Grape Hull Pie, It’s juicy and wonderful, and I love the old-school way it uses everything but the seeds.
A North Carolina Treasure
This pie is an heirloom well worth dusting off and setting out in a place of honor at today’s table. Made with a dedication to thrift and flavor, it uses the thick, sturdy hulls of the muscadine grape. This unusual grape, which is native to North America, no longer has instant recognition from North Carolina and South Carolina people.
Nonetheless, it’s still thriving both out in the wild, and in the marketplace, where many supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and fruit stands carry domesticated varieties. You’ll also see scuppernongs, the bronze-green variety tended on backyard grape arbors throughout the upper South.
Unique Among the Grapes of the World!
You’ll find them referred to as slipskin grapes, since a firm squeeze on a plump, ripe grape causes the juicy seed-filled grape to pop right out. Though muscadine skins are too tough to chew up when eating the grapes out of hand, thrifty and flavor-conscious cooks figured out how to make use of them along with the grape pulp.
They separated skins from pulp, and then cooked the pulp just enough to squeeze out and discard the big round seeds. Then pulp and hulls were cooked with sugar, a bit of flour, and butter, to make a thick, juicy pie.
Talk about Thrifty!
This pie is thrifty, and by that I mean it makes brilliant use of every possible aspect of its fruity goodness, except for the seeds. Scuppernongs and muscadines are such a special ingredient! To this day they only show up once a year, for a few weeks in the late summer-early fall season. What a shame it would be to waste any of its goodness, just because it’s a little bit to time to get to the goodness!
Seeds and Hulls? No Problem!
Muscadines and scuppernongs boast substantial hulls and seed-studded pulp, big seeds, and thick hulls, that is; both brimming with flavor. I love to think about the women who wanted to capture every drop, every chew, every pleasing nourishing bit of this gift, and came up with this pie. They took the time to pop grapes out of hulls and discard the oversize seeds, so they could make a marvelous, unique homespun pie. Their creativity and thrify kitchen smarts have extended our ability to feast on these indigenous fruity orbs.
Between the steps involved in preparation, the shortness of their season in early fall, and the challenges for most cooks of even finding these heirloom grapes nowadays, muscadine grape hull pie is under-known and under-appreciated. Through the first half of the 20th century, this pie was a common Southern home dessert from late summer through early fall.
What’s in a Name?
Muscadine is the name of these native grapes which still delight us here in North Carolina each fall. Both colors, deep purple and bronze-golden-green, are muscadines. The purple ones are called muscadine, and the bronze ones are called scuppernongs. Their tastes are distinct and I adore both of them. My muscadine grape hull pie comes out deliciously and beautifully whether you use all purple, all bronze, or a combination of the two.
What sets these grapes apart?
Their shape is round as a ping pong ball, but smaller. Their skin is thick and juicy, full of flavor but very thick. Many people bite down on a whole muscadine grape to pop the pulp loose from the skin. Then we delicately remove (or spit out, depending on location and atmosphere) the skin or hull, and chew the juicy sweet delicious pulp, sending forth the seeds as well, since they are quite large.
These grapes grow differently from the red and green grapes we know so well. They grow individually, on a vine, rather than in bunches. Seeing them hanging on a vine in the woods like Christmas ornaments is a great joy to me, and a wonder.
More Great Grape Info & Pie Ideas!
Here’s an excellent feature on these grapes by Tanya Ballard Brown from NPR ‘s culinary series, The Salt. To read it, click HERE.
And check out this story from Our State magazine, on the Mother Vine, the stunningly enormous and ancient muscadine grape vine still thriving on the North Carolina coast. To read it, click HERE.
Muscadine grape hull pie comes out saucey, much like a cobbler, so consider serving it in shallow bowls. Ice cream, whipped cream, or a splash of half and half or evaporated milk to put that sauce to good use. For a quicker route to pie happiness, try my Sweet Corn Custard Pie or one of my chess pies: The Southern classic, Classic Chess Pie, or my irresistible Chocolate Chess Pie.
Here’s a quick little video about these unique native grapes, the only grape indigenous to North America
Homegrown: Meet the Muscadine, a short video from NC State University’s “Homegrown” series
Muscadine Grape Hull Pie
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups muscadine grapes (about 2 pounds), rinsed
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place bottom crust into a pie pan, with the edge of the piecrust hanging over the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Mix the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and stir with a fork to mix them well.
- Holding it over a medium bowl, squeeze a grape with its stem end down, so that the pulp pops out and falls into the bowl. (If the pulp doesn't pop right out with only a squeeze, cut the stem ends off the grapes and discard the ends. Then squeeze the grape and the pulp should pop right out.)
- Set the hulls aside in a bowl, and place the grape pulp and juices into a medium saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water to the pan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat.
- Cook until the pulp has soften and begun to break down, so that the seeds can be easily separated, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl let cool until you can handle them. Work through the bowl of pulp, extracting and discarding the large round seeds.
- Add the grape hulls to the saucepan, and continue cooking to soften the hulls, for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar, and the sugar mixture.
- Pour the grape filling into the piecrust . (Do not overfill it. Reserve any excess and make a small pie in a custard cup, or cook just the fruit as a simple pudding to eat with cream.)
- Scatter the bits of butter over the pie filling, and cover with the top crust. Press hard all around the pie to seal up the crust. Crimp the edges or press them with the tines of a fork to seal it well. Make slits in the top of the pie so that juices can bubble up and steam can escape.
- Place the pie on a baking sheet lined with foil, so that any juices have somewhere to go besides the bottom of the stove.
- Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking until the filling is thickened and bubbling hot, and the crust is nicely browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Set the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel, and let it cool completely.
Where does the lemon juice or vinegar go? I think I missed that. But I already filled my pie. I cooked the hulls for 5 minutes and then added the pulp bit and then flour? Does the oven soften the hills more?
I am so sorry for my mistake in omitting the instructions for adding the lemon juice or vinegar to the pie filling. I will correct the recipe now, which will serve readers going forward but didn’t help you in time. The lemon juice should go into the bowl of cooked and then cooled grape pulp and grape hulls or skins, along with the sugar. You stir together the grapes and hulls and lemon juice and sugar mixture, and then pour the grape filling into the piecrust and seal it up to bake. I hope your pie came out acceptably, and I so appreciate you letting me know of my error. I find that baking the filing softens up the grape hulls to a pleasing and flavorful texture. I would love to know how your pie came out, and what you think about the cooked grape hulls. Happy baking and happy fall!
Did I miss in the instructions when to add the lemon juice?
I am the one who missed the instructions for adding the lemon juice, Linda, and I am so sorry for my error. It goes in after you’ve cooked the grape pulp and added the skins or hulls to cook them as well — when you combine the cooked and cooled grape pulp and skins with the sugar mixture before putting the filling into the pastry shell. I will correct the recipe now. Thank you for letting me know and I regret leaving my readers wondering about this step. I hope your fall and your baking are bringing you joy!
My mother made this pie for me as a young girl. I never got her recipe and it was such a thrill to find your recipe and instructions. Now at the age of 86 I am making one today. We have an abundance of these treasures and I am sharing with friends. They have never heard of such a great find. I am going to try freezing some after separating hull and pulp.
Thank you for sharing
Thani you so much, Grace! I love knowing that this lovely pie connects you to your childhood and that you are baking one today, connections to kitchens and dear ones from the past. My honor and pleasure to share it. I am so moved by your message. Happy baking!
Glad to learn the trick of separating pulp and hulls. I used to seed these by hand but from now on will be taking a cue from you!
Many thanks, Lesa! So glad you find this method useful. I’m really looking forward to muscadine/scuppernong grape season, which should be upon us here in Piedmont NC soon. Mid-August is what I usually expect, so it won’t be long now. Keep me posted on your grape adventures and creations.
Not a baker, but this recipe confuses me.
Are some of the ingredients for the crust? Bottom and/or top?
Step 1, “Mix the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and stir with a fork to mix them well.” Is this the sugar mixture mentioned in step 5?
In step 5, its states “sugar mixture” other than the sugar what is in this mixture?
Hi, Jamie! I’m sorry my recipe is confusing for you. Here’s what I meant, None of the recipes ingredients is for pastry. You start with two sheets of ready-to-use piecrust. The sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt get mixed with the figs and become part of the filling.
You stir those three together in a bowl to mix them evenly; and then toss this sugar-flour mixture gently with the figs. Next your scrape the figs which are now coated with the sugar-flour mixture into the pie shell, dot with butter and sprinkle with lemon juice, and then cover them with top crust and crimp and vent the pie.
You mentioned “Step 5”; note that my recipe has only three steps, and all the instructions I mentioned here are in Step 1.
I think it would be helpful for me to break the instructions out into more steps! So I plan to go back and edit the recipe later this week.
I hope this is helpful and that it’s now clearer for you as to what to do to make this pie! All the best to you — happy fall!
I grew up in the north but with southern roots. We always had muscadine jelly in the house (thanks to my great aunts). I made this pie this afternoon, and am looking forward to it. Thank you for the recipe-
I love knowing that. Bless the aunts, always and forever. I’m so glad you made the pie. Let me know how it came out if you have time to do so. Happy fall. Looking forward to wild persimmons, and the ones in the store as well.
My neighbor told me about a muscadine pie She was gifted that tasted like pecan pie. Would you say this recipe is reminiscent of Pecan pie?
No, not at all. This is more like an apple pie or peach or pear pie, where it’s all about the fruit, with a lovely syrup but no sweet, gooey layer which we find in pecan pie beneath the pecans. This one is all about the flavor and texture of the grapes. Not enough other ingredients (eggs, butter, and LOTS of sugar, which give pecan pie its gooey goodness. Sounds like it’s a different recipe and I’d love to try that one too. But this one tastes like the grapes themselves.
Thanks. My mom made these pies for us decades ago. Never wasted anything! I created muscadine muffins last night. Today it’s hull pie and tomorrow muscadine vinaigrette! They are growing like crazy in the woods surrounding our house
How wonderful! No trips to the store for you —- you can shop for muscadines in the woods by the house! Are these dark purple color, or the golden bronze color, or some of both? I love that you are using them up different ways. A culinary version of “Make hay while the sun shines!” Happy cooking, happy eating.
How do u keep
The squirrels , rats and crows away ? I went to a friends property to get some muscadines . He also had a pear tree and fig tree. The crows were bold and only went higher in the trees when we approached . They eat and eat. Some peck on one side n ruin our chance of getting any muscadines . What can we do? They’re not afraid of the 3 scare crows nor the wind chimes around the fruit , so upsetting . We need help!
Oh my goodness, that would not sit well with me, having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds way back when! I have only picked them from a you-pick-’em orchard in the fall, where the vines were out in a big field, just off a 2-lane country road which is well traveled, and on a farmstead around which development had happened. So I imagine that the development would have driven off the wildlife you are encountering. Yikes! Nowadays I will say that I have gotten my scuppernongs and muscadines the easy way, from farmers’ market vendors, CSA, and even grocery stores. Cottle Farms here in NC has a good distribution state wide, although they are done for this year. Where are you, what state and area?
I am so excited to make this pie with the muscadines we gathered today! I love being able to take advantage of the abundance found in my own back yard.
My muscadine grapes are much smaller than the ones I find at the farmers market. With mine 2 lbs of grapes equal 6 cups. What is more important, cups or weight? Thanks!
Oh, my goodness! I am so sorry to have left you hanging on this and I imagine those grapes are long gone! The weight is the most important. When I wrote the recipe, I was using the big plump cultivated muscadines and scuppernongs we can get here in the supermarkets, as well as at farmer’s markets. All are cultivated and all are the size of a walnut or so. In OCtober I went to a Brunswick stew making celebration and was able to help gather wild muscadines from the woods next to our host’s Piedmont NC home. I was surprised at how petite the wild muscadines were. Even then I didn’t think about how that appplies to a recipe like this. I will want to discuss that variation next time I write about it. I left you to your own devices — hope you got some lovely pies out of it without my help! And that your Thanksgiving holiday was grand. All the best to you!
Nanci – I found your post while looking for recipes for the plethora of muscadine grapes we have growing around our house. You inspired me to make this: http://gatheringsteam.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/wild-muscadine-cobbler/
Thanks very much!
This makes me so happy! I adore your photographs and am so pleased that my pie leads to your cobbler. And now I’m going to make your cobbler!
Dear Nancy, Thank you for raising the consciousness about one of our treasures. Making Muscadine Hull pie is one of my all time favorite things. Someone to whom I served it said that it tasted like the best “cherry pie” he had ever had.
An aside–though it takes a while, I squeeze all the grapes by hand(hulls go in one pot, insides into another). After about 15-2 minutes of cooking, the seeds can be sieved from the pulp directly into the softened hulls (no cooling or handling !)
Thanks, Clay! Good to know. I’ll bet you are like me right now, eating and cooking all the muscadines and scuppernongs while we still have them around! Wondering if I can make a muscadine grape relish to put up for Thanksgiving…..