Roll out the welcome mat

Late Saturday night, my parents arrived for a visit. Early Sunday morning I opened the fridge to find this:

Actually, there were two of them, and they were a little more full. My parents certainly know how to get the old welcome mat rolled out, don't they?

My mom made the pies the day before they drove down, in her kitchen at home with the last of the 2008 frozen Maine blueberries. (This was in order to make room for the 2009 specimens, which should arrive within weeks.) She had three helpers borrowed from family friends: one eight years old, one five, and one three. The kitchen got a bit messy, and the sugar was shorted just a smidgen, but all in all, they were a very productive team. They turned out a full six homemade blueberry pies, even with a few crust casualties. (When my mother gave the three year old her own little ball to roll out, she took a few spins with the pin before promptly announcing that her mother had told her she should eat the dough, not roll it. Her mother not being present and this being a blatant fib, my mother had no choice to but chuckle, smile, and say goodbye to that particular chunk of dough.)

A few of the pies went home with the helpers and one stayed in Maine, but the other two—thank goodness!—came to us. And not only that, but one made the trip to Great Island Sunday afternoon for a picnic. Fisher tried to nab a slice from his perch on the bow of the boat, but he ended up with a towel instead. As you can see, that didn't slow him down when it came time to hunt around for crumbs.

I had a hard time refraining from crumb-hunting, myself. Between the afternoon sunshine and the swim off the boat and the walk through the woods and then along the beach to look for perfect oyster shells, I was about ready for another slice of pie, too. Happily, I remembered we had another one at home.

You might want to have one handy, too, seeing as it's August and all. There've been blueberries all over the farmers' markets recently, but if you're going to try and make a pie anything like the one my mother did, I'd go picking for wild ones instead. High bush blueberries are delicious, but they're nothing like the tiny, low-growing ones that carpet the barrens in Maine and the hillsides around here. I prefer the big ones for cereal and snacking, but the tiny ones hands down make a better pie.

At that, I think I'll leave you to it. It is the last day of my parents' visit, and I think you'll agree they deserve to be shown a very, very good time.


Adapted from the Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

Feel free to use whatever pie crust you like best for this recipe. My favorites are the "Tart and Pie Crust" recipe from Alice Waters' book, The Art of Simple Food or the one Annie B. Copps, editor of Yankee magazine developed for a pumpkin pie article last fall. I think my mother used the one from the Joy of Cooking, which as you saw above, came out perfectly as well.

Beyond the crust, it's all about the berries. Frozen berries are fine as long as they're wild; just be sure to use a bit more tapioca to soak up the extra juice or else the filling won't set. The 2/3 cup of sugar called for below is a bit on the low side, so if you like your pies sweeter I'd use a little more. And last but not least, it's a very, very good idea to bake the pie on top of a cookie sheet with a little lip, as they tend to overflow. Ultimately, my mother's pies did set, but they made a terrible mess of the oven in the process.

one 9-inch pie crust, bottom and top

5 cups blueberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon tapioca
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and tapioca. Stir everything together gently and let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes. Pour this filling into the prepared 9-inch pie crust bottom. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and scatter them across the top of the berries. Place the top crust over the berries, roll the sides into a thick rim, and prick the dough with a fork so that the steam can escape while the pie bakes. Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 450; then turn the oven down to 350 and bake it for another half hour, until golden brown.


Stacey said...

Mmmmm, I have such a weakness for blueberries. I always have to buy/pick double so I can eat half while I use the rest to make ... well, muffins. I'd be lying if I said I make anything other than a weekly supply of blue-dripping, berry-saturated muffins. Maybe I'll try the pie, thanks!

Elspeth said...

Stacey, so do I. They pretty much make me buckle at the knees on sight. The other day, I bought a pint at the farmers' market in Orleans, and it didn't even make the drive home!

I think that's why I only ever have blueberry pie when my mother makes it...mine never get that far.

All the best,

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