Fresh, sweet and tart concord grapes are made into the perfect fruit puree to top these creamy Concord Grape Cheesecake Bars.
As someone who has never had a vegetable or fruit garden, I’ve never known the intense love and attachment that happens when you create a dish out of what you’ve harvested, such as these Concord Grape Cheesecake Bars. I’d imagine it’s something like having a baby.
Right? That’s accurate. Totally. Of course. Someone weigh in here please.
But honestly, the feeling of putting hard work into something and then creating something delicious from it is amazing. Recently, I volunteered with Hidden Harvest Ottawa, a wonderful organization that ‘saves’ fruit and nuts from trees and bushes around the city.
How it works is that the property owner (whether you’re the actual owner, such as having the tree in your backyard, or the ‘caretaker’ as it may be a City-owned fruit-bearing tree on the City’s right-of-way) registers their tree with Hidden Harvest. Once it’s in season, the organization sends out an email blast saying a specific type of fruit in a specific area of Ottawa is ready to be picked, along with the date and time. If you’re interested in helping, you sign up and meet at the provided address. From there, you pick for a few hours and get to meet a diverse cast of pleasant strangers.
Then, the best part. In most cases, one-quarter of the harvest goes to the food bank, one-quarter to the owner of the tree, one-quarter to a canning company the organization works with, and a quarter is split among the volunteers.
The concord grapes uses in these Concord Grape Cheesecake Bars come from a house in my neighbourhood where the entire laneway was covered in an awning of grape vines. My fear of grape spiders and heights fell away as I snipped warm, juicy grapes off their vines. In total, we rescued 66 pounds of grapes, leaving quite a few left for the owners. I walked home, my plastic bag of 5.5 pounds swinging merrily.
If you don’t have access to a great community program like Hidden Harvest, try finding concord grapes at your local farmer’s market or ask around your neighbourhood. If you still can’t find any, any type of intensely flavoured berry works, such as raspberries or blueberries.
These Concord Grape Cheesecake Bars come from one of my earliest recipes, Skinny Blueberry Cheesecake Bars. They’re made up of half cream cheese and half Greek yogurt, but I promise you that you won’t be able to tell the difference between these bars and the full cream cheese variety. They’re that good.
Won’t take my word for it? Try them out!
Check out CK on Instagram! If you try out one of my recipes, tag @CrumbKitchen so I can see your delicious creations. 🙂
Total Cost = $6.49 (Budget breakdown below recipe)
- 6 oz. stemmed concord grapes
- ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tbsp. salted or unsalted butter, melted
- 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
- 2 large egg whites
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. bottled lemon juice
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Cook the concord grapes in a small saucepan on low-medium heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring and mashing frequently with a spoon. Once your mixture is almost completely mashed and resembles jam, remove from heat.
- Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the mixture into a small bowl, pressing down with a wooden spoon to get the most liquid and pulp as possible. Once you have about 3-4 tbsp., set aside to cool and throw away the skins and seeds.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x8 square pan with aluminum foil, allowing foil to hang over the sides, and grease lightly with cooking spray.
- Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl. Spread graham mixture evenly on the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes in preheated oven. Let cool for 5 minutes, then place in refrigerator to continue cooling as you prepare the filling.
- Beat the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds to one minute on medium power, or until light and fluffy. Add in the Greek yogurt, egg whites, sugar and flour and beat 1 minute until mixture is completely incorporated and creamy. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and beat again for 30 seconds to combine. Do not overmix.
- Pour filling into cooled graham cracker pan and spread evenly.
- Using a teaspoon, scoop concord grape mixture and drop onto the top of the filling randomly. Using a toothpick or chopstick, drag through the filling and concord grape mixture to create swirls, cleaning each time you swirl the stick. Bake for 25 minutes, placing aluminum foil over the top if it starts to brown.
- Remove from oven and cool for at least 20 minutes, then refrigerate for at least three hours (I left mine overnight).
- Once cooled, lift foil and cheesecake out of the pan and cut with a sharp knife. Run knife under warm water after each cut.
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
6 oz. stemmed concord grapes = $1.50 (I picked mine from a neighbour’s vines for free, but we’re not always that lucky!)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs = $0.60
3 tbsp. salted or unsalted butter = $0.12
8 oz. block cream cheese = $2.00
3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt = $1.75
2 large egg whites = $0.30
1/4 cup granulated sugar = $0.04
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour = $0.02
1 tsp. bottled lemon juice = $0.02
2 tsp. vanilla extract = $0.14
Why it’s Cheap
These cheesecake squares will elicit a “wow!” when you pull them out (trust me, it happened at my dinner party). For $6.49 (and cheaper if you got the concord grape for free like I did!), that’s a good deal. By using Greek yogurt instead of double the cream cheese, you save a small amount while helping your body out, all without sacrificing taste.
Make it More Budget-Friendly
If you have a box of graham crackers lying around from the summer, feel free to pulse those in a food processor to make graham crumbs rather than buying a ready-made box from the store.