We have all been gathering, baking, and putting things by (preserving) to beat the band, as when the fruit is in, there truly is no tomorrow: it will be gone if you don’t use it now. So the Fourth was picking time not only for cherries, but for blueberries, those grown by my friend Linda’s husband Bob, also my source for striped bass.
Linda and Bob were out house-hunting when I went over to pick berries to make dessert for a barbecue at their house—excellent ribs and dogs, supplemented by my potato salad—to celebrate the Fourth. The blueberry patch was neatly netted against the birds. And me, as it turned out: I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get in. I was beginning to worry that I was in fact overeducated, and not the practical, competent, can-do sort of girl that I liked to think of myself as, when I figured out the simple and ingenious system Bob had rigged. It took me about 10 minutes of walking around, pulling on the netting, and testing the staples (immovable) to discover a cord, a sort of soft version of a Colonial door bar, strung across one side and knotted to nestle into eye-hooks. I undid that, but the opening it produced was too small; probably I could squeeze through, but surely 6’3” Bob could not get in this? Hunting more, I found a piece of molding down lower that fitted into nails on either side and lifted easily away and up, giving access.
With the castle breached, I faced another problem: there seemed to be very few ripe berries. Had they just picked the night before, I wondered? Whatever the reason, I thought I’d be lucky to get a cup or at best two—not enough for a pie, I thought, but perhaps I could forage enough for a simple cobbler. Pushing on down the rows, it was not until I went around to the other side—the shady side that blueberries prefer, I later learned--that I found one bush that was just bursting with blue. I began to pick, discovering something I had quite forgotten: blueberry picking is back-breaking work. You have to lean over, and delve deep into the bushes in that crooked pose. But my labor was rewarded with a generous bowlful of perfectly ripe (I picked only the most uniformly blue) fruit. Yes, enough for a pie.
Bob’s blueberries this year were delicious, juicy and spicy as they should be. Serves 6-8.
9” pie plate
Pastry for 2-crust pie, divided in two: my recipe for pastry for fruit pies is here. It’s been unusually muggy in LC; use less water if it’s muggy where you are too; start with 3 T and work your way up as needed.
5 cups blueberries, picked over but not washed
Scant (about 7/8) cup sugar
½ tea mixed cardamom and cinnamon, a little more to taste but don’t overdo
1 tea freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T flour
2 T cornstarch
2 T unsalted butter, melted
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Roll out half the pastry into a circle of about 13” and fit it into the pie plate, smoothing it along the bottom and leaving any overhang. Put in the refrigerator to cool.
Prepare the filling by gently folding the sugar, spice, salt, lemon juice, and starches into the berries using your hand. Add the melted butter and toss lightly, with your hand.
Roll the remaining pastry out to 12” and, using your eye to judge or a ruler, cut it into 1” strips with a very sharp knife or pastry wheel. Scrape the filling gently into the pan, evening it out. Weave a lattice over the filling with the strips. Trim the bottom and top pastry strips as needed to within 1” the rim of the pan; turn both under together, and flute to seal. You can use any left-over scraps to cut decorations if you want.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until the juices bubble up and the crust is golden. If the crust begins to darken too much before the pie is done, protect it with a pie protector or a few strips of foil loosely curved around the pan.
Let cool completely before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream.