We just finished watching Pushing Daisies on Blu-Ray (alas, it got cancelled after two seasons). It’s a show made for the format with super-saturated colors and a very stylish look that really sparkles on a high definition television. The main character of the show is a pie-maker and seeing all the great pies on the show triggered an interest in making pies as something more than the occasional apple pie for a potluck or baking a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. So, at least for now, I’m making pies on the weekend.
Pie number one was a double-crust peach pie. The peaches were a little under-ripe, and I think the filling had too much almond extract in it, but it was still really good. The crust is a very simple butter crust (½ cup butter, 1 2/3 cup flour, 5 T ice water for a double-crust or 1/3 cup butter, 1 cup flour, 3 T ice water for a single crust), with 40% whole wheat flour. I’ve also started using chilled vodka for some of the ice water. According to Cook’s Illustrated it acts as enough of a binding liquid to allow you to shape the dough, but when it bakes the alcohol evaporates, leaving a drier and flakier crust than if you’d used water.
Pie number two didn’t quite come out as expected because I wasn’t able to get the quantity of blueberries that the recipe called for, and I mis-calculated the difference between a 9” and 9 ½” deep dish pie plate. I wound up adding a sliced peach and apple to the top of the filling so I’d have enough fruit to fill the pie, but either I didn’t add enough cornstarch for the additional fruit or I didn’t bake it long enough so it’s a bit runny. It tastes great, though (I mean, pie, right?). The cranberries are actually lowbush cranberry (sometimes called lingonberry), which isn’t quite the same thing as the berry most people buy in the supermarket around Winter Solstice, but they do offer a nice tartness and red color to the purple-blue sweetness of blueberries. And they’re local, from the Farmer’s Market.
After a week and a half in Berkeley and a quick trip to Anchorage for work, I finally feel like things are getting back to normal. Last weekend we bought a bunch of stuff at the Farmer’s Market, including a small basket of raspberries. I had planned to make some raspberry bars, but when I looked at them today, they seemed a bit soft for something like that. On Sunday we picked a half gallon of blueberries from the power line, so making preserves from the combination seemed like a good idea. Here’s the recipe I used:
- 1 small basket fresh raspberries (approximately 2 cups)
- Same weight of fresh blueberries (~2 cups)
- 1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped small
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 1 T water
- 3 cups sugar
- Bring fruit and liquids to a boil.
- Boil 5 minutes to soften apples.
- Add sugar and mix.
- Purée in food processor.
- Return to boil.
- Boil 10–15 minutes until the pectin is ready (it gels on the back of a spoon as it cools)
- Pour or ladle into hot canning jars (2 pint jars for this quantity), boil in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
I’m not sure if the apple is necessary, but the recipe I was looking at included pectin and I didn’t have any. The Interwebs informed me that apples contain a lot of pectin, so I threw that in the pot as well. The food processor step was included because I wasn’t convinced the apples would get mushed up enough to disappear in the mix.
The blueberries on the left cost $8 at the Farmer’s Market this morning. The blueberries on the right cost me two hours of hiking around the trails with Nika and Piper. We’ve got a lot of blueberry bushes on our property, but it’s been so cloudy and wet that ours didn’t get enough sun to produce very many berries. So I had to go farther afield.
It was a grand time, except for when Piper refused to cross over a two-foot wide area of deep water. She’s extremely food motivated, but no amount of coaxing would get her to jump across once she’d discovered there was deep water in between her and the treat. All the while, Nika kept jumping in and swimming around while Piper looked eagerly at the treat in my hand, trying to figure out how to get it without jumping or swimming. I finally had to step into the deep water (filling my left knee-high rubber boot with water) and help her across. She could have jumped the gap easily, but I don’t think there is a treat large enough to overcome her dislike of water.
Along the way we saw a flicker, four spruce grouse, gray jays and lots of smaller birds I couldn’t identify. I’ve still got the wonderful smell of Ledum palustre on my clothes.
Tomorrow morning: blueberry pancakes!