Who doesn’t love these little balls of juicy, antioxidant-filled, goodness?? The boys are funny. They will only eat blueberries from our backyard bushes. They don’t like any other kind. I guess they taste better when they are still warm from the sun. We have two high bush blueberries in a backyard berry patch, as well as several raspberry bushes. We used to have strawberries there as well, but the raspberries have taken over. We planted some new strawberries this spring, so we’ll see if we get any more next summer from the new plantings. But, I think we are going to have to re-locate the strawberry patch.
Our blueberries are hitting their stride, and we picked almost three pounds this past weekend. We probably have another three pounds still ripening on the bushes. Mmm…now what to do with those yummy blueberries?? Usually I make lots of muffins and quick breads with them, or eat them fresh or in yogurt/oatmeal.
The other thing I do with blueberries is make pie and jam! However, we don’t use our backyard high-bush berries for that. I buy Maine wild blueberries (AKA low-bush) for that from local sources. My favorite recipe for blueberry pie is from Cook’s Illustrated. I use their pie crust for all of my pies. It’s different than other pie crusts in that it uses vodka as part of the liquid. The addition of the vodka allows the dough to be moister, and thus easier to roll without breaking. However, then the vodka evaporates when it cooks, and you end up with a flaky, tender crust. Unfortunately, the raw dough tastes sort of icky, but the final product is excellent! (That’s okay, dissuades the dough-snitches.) The other thing that I love about the CI blueberry pie recipe is the addition of a grated granny smith apple. It disappears into the fruit and you don’t even know it’s there, however it adds a good amount of pectin which thickens the pie without the gumminess that can occur if you use too much tapioca or cornstarch.
I’m not the best pie crust shaper, so I like to think of my pies as “rustic”. And rustic sure is tasty!
Blueberry Pie with Vodka-Crust
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, cold
1/4 cup cold water
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground in a spice grinder to a powder
pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no un-coated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl. (TINA’s NOTE: I put my cut-up butter/shortening in the freezer on a plate for about 10 minutes before using it just to make sure it’s super-cold.)
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. (TINA’s NOTE: mix water and vodka and put in the freezer for about 10-15 to get super-cold. The vodka will help the water not freeze if leave it in there a bit longer.) With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side. (TINA’s NOTE: I like to use mini shaped cutters like leaves, flowers or stars.)
7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.
Even better….serve with ice cream!