Berry pies

The Herald’s July 11 Food page feature about elderberries reminded me that I have a fairly substantial crop to pick on my Ohio property if I get back there before the end of the summer.

One of my Ohio friends told me that elderberry tea was the best nutraceutical to ward off winter colds. Depending on how much time I have to pick berries, I’ll look to storing some in the freezer for later glaze-making or pie-baking. Elderberry, like chokecherry, makes an excellent glaze for ham or lamb.

In the next few weeks or so we’ll be seeing a classified ad for organic Oregon berries that are shipped to Durango, to the delight of regular customers who clear their freezers to make way for these treats.

Organic berries are minus the fungicides. You may not taste the difference, but you’ll recognize, especially among the fresh berries, that in a day or two they expire, rather than remain preserved for weeks on end in the refrigerator fruit bin.

Raspberries are not hard to grow in Durango, but they do take space. Maybe 2013 will be the year I cordon off a sunny area dedicated to blackberries and raspberries. I gave away most of my strawberry plants several years ago, but the remnants of that crop returned last month. Next week these will be transplanted to a better area for picking.

This year I had enough that I ate my breakfast each day in the strawberry patch. They were tiny but packed with flavor. I’m not a fan of grocery store strawberries, because I never acquired a taste for the commercial size or flavor.

Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent blueberry pie recipe that uses crushed grahams in the plain pastry. You can’t taste the grahams and they disappear into the flaky pie crust, a real feat when you bake a frozen blueberry pie.

In fact, just about any berry pie is subject to a soggy crust unless you place a thin barrier, such as cream cheese, between the berries and the pastry. How the graham crackers work is a mystery to me, but you can always count on Cook’s Illustrated to identify and solve all culinary challenges.

This blueberry pie also features dried cranberries, which absorb the soupiness of the blueberries, impart a deeper flavor and keep the crust from growing soggy, too. Finally, the addition of minute tapioca helps bind the juices. The pie is frozen immediately after assembling and it goes from freezer to oven directly, without thawing. There’s simply no pie worth heating my kitchen in July, but what a treasure to have such a treat in November.

Pull up the Cook’s Illustrated website and type “classic blueberry pie” in the search bar. It’s an old recipe, but one worth trying.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story