Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grape and Ground Cherry Crumble Pie with Potato Pastry Crust

Ever eaten a ground cherry? If you haven't, you're not alone - I'd never even heard of them until a few years ago, when I came across a packet of seeds at the Urban Harvest store downtown. They had some fruit in a bowl to sample too, so I took a taste - and was hooked on the tangy, semi-sweet taste reminiscent of a more tropical cherry. I bought seeds for a variety called "Cossack Pineapple", which was supposed to have a flavour similar to the tropical fruit, and sowed them last summer.

The plants were an abysmal flop. As is always the case with heirloom and organic gardening, it was a crapshoot at best - and the timing and climate just didn't cooperate with the fragile baby plants. But no matter. This year I tried again, and was rewarded with lots of them, all extremely productive and netting me not only the occasional handful I was planning on enjoying au naturale, but bowls of the fruit (also called "husk cherries" or "cape gooseberries") - more than I could eat at a time. I knew the fruit is commonly made into jam or compote, but I wanted to try baking with them, especially since I had a handful of Cabernet grapes from our vineyard to use up too (I did make jam like last year with the Concords though).

When I was setting up to review my copy of Vicki's Vegan Kitchen, I spotted a rather unique looking pastry dough that was made with mashed potatoes and olive oil with just a hint of flour, rather than traditional butter or lard. With lots of local potatoes from the farmer's market on hand, I decided to give the recipe a try, but with a sweeter touch, and use it as the base for a grape and ground cherry pie of some kind. The dough was incredibly tender and soft, but easy to work with thanks to rolling it between sheets of waxed paper and flipping it into the pie pan. Since the potatoes do make it more dense than your standard pastry, I didn't want to use it for a topping on such a delicate filling. Instead, I whipped up a basic oatmeal crumble and used that instead. I also tried using baked, mashed sweet potatoes, and it was remarkable: a perfect low fat, naturally sweet crust that I can just picture playing host to apple, pecan or pumpkin pie this fall. 

Potato Pastry Dough
Makes two 8" crusts, 16 servings
1 cup very smooth mashed potatoes, ideally from baked Yukon Gold or Russets
1 1/2 tbsp lightly flavoured olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
  1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the potatoes, oil, lemon juice, brown sugar and sea salt until well blended.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder and nutmeg and mix well.
  3. Divide in half, wrap each half in cling wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
  4. Working one half at a time, roll out into a thin circle between sheets of wax paper.
  5. Turn into an 8" pie plate. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
  6. Use immediately or wrap well in cling wrap, then heavy duty foil, and freeze up to 6 months.
Amount Per Serving (1/8th of one crust)
Calories: 50.4
Total Fat: 1.5 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 40.0 mg
Total Carbs: 8.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 1.0 g
The filling of the pie couldn't have been easier - I actually found a vintage Mennonite recipe in my collection of stuff I had received years ago on a trip to St. Jacob's, and I knew that with so few ingredients (a touch of cornstarch and some brown sugar) it would give the fruit a chance to shine. Of course, if you can't find ground cherries nearby, the pie would work with all grapes, or a mixture of grapes, apples and peaches!

Grape and Ground Cherry Crumble Pie
Serves 8
1 cup ground cherries (I used the pineapple ground cherries I grew this year)
1 cup grapes (I used some Cabernet grapes we grew this year)
pinch each cinnamon and allspice
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1 unbaked 8" pie crust (I used the Potato Pie Crust, above)
3 tbsp rolled oats (not instant)
1 tbsp Earth Balance buttery stick margarine or salted butter, cool but not cold
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Toss the ground cherries, grapes, spices, cornstarch and half the sugar in a bowl and pour into the crust.
  3. Combine the remaining sugar, oats and butter in another dish, mixing with your fingers until crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle over the fruit mixture and pat down.
  5. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes on the lowest rack of the oven, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake 20 minutes more.
Amount Per Serving (1/8th)
Calories: 142.4
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 80.1 mg
Total Carbs: 33.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 1.7 g


  1. Wow, this is such a unique recipe. Every single element had some new twist that I'd never tried before. The end result looked gorgeous.

  2. Nancy, thanks so much for sharing this and for linking it up over on my blog. I love that you used potatoes in the crust! It's so unusual.

  3. Thanks so much for linking this up over on my blog - this recipe looks amazing and unusual(and how cool is that that you grew the ground cherries yourself?!)


Thanks for the feedback!