Friday, August 5, 2016

Classic Blueberry Pie

We write about blueberries a lot on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. If you go through the long list of our earlier posts, you’ll find recipes for pies and cakes and pancakes and whole lot of muffins (and there are more waiting in the wings!). It seems we like to eat blueberries, and we like to cook with them.



It’s blueberry season again. It doesn’t last too long, so you’ve kind of got to seize the day as it rushes by—and there were local blueberries at my farmers’ market this week. It’s not a coincidence that the New York Times recently posted an article about blueberry pie. Nothing new under the sun, eh?

Well, yes and no. The first comment discussed in the article among several chefs, was that it’s hard to thicken blueberry filling, because blueberries can be unpredictable, anywhere from runny to gummy. That makes choosing a thickening agent challenging, and the chefs did not all agree. The options are (1) cornstarch, (2) flour, (3) tapioca, and (4) arrowroot. There is some preference for using arrowroot. Aha! I have arrowroot!

Then there’s the question of the crust. Sam Sifton, NYT food editor, prefers all butter. The Joy of Cooking cookbook and Julia Child leaned toward using shortening. Some people like lard. But Sam specifies that if you use the right butter (high fat European style), and keep everything cold (which is a challenge because the blueberries come into season in midsummer, when it’s not exactly cold), butter is the way to go.

As I’m sure you remember, not long ago I finally found a pie crust recipe that worked. I promptly saved it with the title Pie Crust Recipe That Works. Yes, it’s all-butter, and also includes powdered sugar and orange juice. You can find that recipe here. (If you wonder why my crust looked a bit raggedy, it’s because I should have thought to make a double recipe—but look! It stretched!)

Blueberry Pie Filling



2 pounds/8 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over [Note: this is the way the recipe was given. I weighed out two pounds, and it’s nowhere near eight cups, more like six cups. Six cups is plenty to fill a pie.]

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tblsp lemon juice
2-3 Tblsp arrowroot or cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt


Put 1 cup of the blueberries into a food processor or blender with the sugar, lemon juice, 2 Tblsp arrowroot/cornstarch and salt, then puree.




Put the mixture into a medium or large pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (about one minute). Remove from the heat and add the remaining blueberries and stir.



Roll out the bottom crust of your pie and fit it into an 8-inch pie plate. 
[Another note: that two-pound measure of blueberries wouldn’t fill an eight-inch pie crust, especially if heaped. Maybe that’s where the eight cups came in. If you’re making this, either use the two pounds of berries and a smaller pie dish, or the eight-inch dish and the eight cups of berries. Who says the NYT knows everything?] Heap the filling into it. Make an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tblsp water) and apply to the edge of the crust (pretend it’s glue!). 



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
[And yet another note: an all-butter crust browns very quickly, so you might want to (1) reduce the heat, or (2) wrap the edges with foil. And an aside: pies have been known to leak, so it’s wise to put a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips—easier than cleaning the bottom of the oven!]

Roll out the top crust and cut some vents (plain or fancy) to let steam escape. Place it over the top, crimping at the edge. Place it in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. 



After 30 minutes, rotate the pie and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling through the vents, which may take from 25 to 45 minutes [Sorry, Sam, but it didn’t take that long. But then, it wasn’t an eight-inch pie pan either.].



Oh, what the heck. It’ll taste good, no matter what. Let it cool on a rack before you try to cut it. And those berries? Definitely goopy. So much for the arrowroot theory.

Seeds of Deception, coming in October. Does not take place in blueberry season! Or even apple season. But even sleuths and suspects have to eat, so no doubt there will be recipes.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

www.sheilaconnolly.com



18 comments:

  1. You're welcome. The article goes to show that there's no one right way to bake a pie--except you should use fresh fruit whenever you can.

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  2. Yum! The blueberries have been very good around here lately!

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    1. Yes, they've been nice here. But I feel a bit guilty buying them because we've got a drought here, and clearly the berries have had plenty of water.

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  3. It looks gorgeous! I have a pie thickener from King Arthur Flour, but I haven't tried it yet, my pies usually fall apart a little bit, too, but when they taste great I don't worry too much about it. :-)

    p.s. I missed your pie crust recipe the first time around, so thanks for the link!

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    1. I've tried all of the thickeners listed, and no one works consistently. I think flour is least favorite because it makes the pie taste like, well, flour. Cornstarch works.

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  4. We have friends in Maine who live on a mountain, on his family's old farm. They have a field of low bush blueberries. Each year when we'd visit my husband would spend hours picking berries. Each day we'd try another recipe (ah youth when you can eat like that!). We decided the definitive blueberry recipe was an uncooked pie. The crust is pre-baked and the raw Maine berries are plopped in and drizzled with a cornstarch, lemon, and water glaze.
    Absolute heaven!

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    1. That's an interesting approach. I was a camp counselor in Maine one year. There was an untended field of blueberries on the property, but of course the berries didn't ripen until camp was just about over. We had blueberry pie on the last night.

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    2. I love that! Must try it. Thanks for sharing, Libby!

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    3. With whipped cream, of course!

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    4. But of course. Or vanilla ice cream.

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  5. It's been a great summer for blueberries...my freezer has many bags ready to use in a pie. I usually use cornstarch as a thickener, but a slightly runny blueberry pie is fine with me. Thanks for the recipe and tips.

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  6. Pat D (patdupuy@yahoo.com)August 5, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    Oh Sheila. I love your rebuttals to the NYT! Let's face it. A homemade pie should look homemade. And taste yummy. Yours passes the test!

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  7. Absolutely lovely looking, Sheila, and I am sure perfectly delish. Thank you! Off to find some of those blueberries!

    Hugs.

    MJ

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  8. I bought a dwarf blueberry plant this year that is made for being kept in a pot. I've enjoyed fresh blueberries this year-but nowhere near enough to make a pie...doubtful a tart either!

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    1. I planted a couple of the dwarf plants a while back, but the weeds ate them. There are a few volunteer blackberries in the same patch, but the birds usually get there first.

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  9. We love blueberry pies and I now only thicken them with four after trying everything else. I always use the juice of one lemon (or at least a half of lemon) and lemon zest and I think that takes away any kind of floury taste that you may get, I love a pie that is juicy as long as the bottom curst is cooked, and baking at 400 degrees initially as your recipe states, is the best way to get that nice crisp bottom crust. I just made a blueberry tart last weekend so it is definitely time for another pie or something else with blueberries. Picked about 16 pounds of blueberries two weeks ago and between giving some away and baking they are totally gone with only one cup saved for a few blueberry pancakes this fall.

    Thanks for the great posting
    Cynthia B.

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    1. Sixteen pounds? That's a lot of blueberries! But I guess you've got to seize the day.

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