Share |

Blackberry Pie

Spiritual Smart Aleck

It is blackberry season. I walk thirty yards from my front door carrying an old plastic yogurt container and start picking.

There is no need to bend over, no need to reach through or wrestle with canes to get to fruit that is hidden. This is the first picking, and all that is necessary is to walk along the edge of the patch grabbing the close, ripe berries. I leave the ones that are out of reach, and the ones that are not quite ripe. I especially leave the ones which I might come back for later, when I will bring pruning shears to clear a path to heavy clumps of berries which for now are inaccessible to a person who doesn’t feel like bleeding for pie. Yet.

When the container is full enough, I bring it in and set the berries to soak in cold water in the sink for a while. My hope is that this soak will remove British Columbian wildfire ash and other particulates which have settled on the berries, plus float little bits of vegetation that have been gathered along with the berries, as well as any living creatures that might be in there.

I know, I know – what are insects but a little added protein? And yet I resist their presence in pie. Let’s not bring up the time the cover fell off the range hood fan and all those desiccated bug corpses fell into the spaghetti sauce. It was a long time ago, and I picked out the large pieces. Nobody got sick or anything.

This batch of berries yielded grass seeds, some little leaves, and only a couple of tiny bugs. Having removed the detritus and rinsed and drained the berries, I mixed them with the sugar, flour, pinch of salt, and lemon juice, and set what was now pie filling aside to make the crust.

Just kidding. I don’t make pie crust. I did, back when I was young and trying to be a good hippie earth mama, embroidering jeans and making bread and so on.

My dad was a farmer. He raised apples. I have clear memories of my mother standing at the kitchen table, rolling out pie dough for apple pies. Whole lotta apple pies came out of my mother’s kitchen, each one with a light crust.
When my time came I tried to rise to the challenge of making pie crust, and I knew it was not a sure thing. I put a glass of water, a bowl, and some butter knives in the freezer twenty minutes before starting. Kept the shortening refrigerated. Assembled these cold ingredients and tools and worked fast, cutting the shortening into the flour, splashing in the icy water. Sometimes my crust turned out as light as a fairy’s fart. Sometimes I would do all that and my crust had the consistency of a hockey puck.

One year I was visiting my mother in California, and she had the pumpkin pie assignment at a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner. We were at the store, and she grabbed a couple of boxes of pre-made pie crusts. She said she didn’t bother with making the pie pastry anymore; too much trouble and these were fine. I tell you, it was like the clouds parted and angels sang hallelujah! I haven’t made a pie crust since.

So. Set the oven to 450 degrees, put the first crust into the pie plate, added the filling, put the second crust on top, pinched the crust around rim, cut a cute little “B” for blackberry in the crust and a few other vents in a sunray pattern, put the whole production on a cookie sheet, and after the oven beeped that it had reached 450, put the pie in and set the timer for the first ten minutes.

That was when I remembered that I had forgotten to dot the top of the filling with butter before putting on the top crust.

Oh well. Berries, sugar, pie crust. How bad could it be?

Next morning, I cut the first slice of pie for breakfast. I took a bite. I moaned with pleasure.

These are times that try human beings’ souls. It is good to have the respite of a slice of blackberry pie now and then.
Blackberry pie: 3 cups blackberries; 1 cup sugar; 2 Tblsp flour; 2 Tblsp lemon juice; 1/8 Tsp salt; 1 recipe pie pastry; 1 Tblsp butter. Combine berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt. Line pie pan with pastry, add filling, dot with butter, cover with top crust. Bake in 450°F oven 10 minutes; reduce temperature to 350°F and bake 25 to 30 minutes (or until the pie looks done to you). Makes one 9-inch pie. – Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cook Book, ©1950