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.