Ok, you probably think I’m sounding like a broken record here (do kids today even understand that reference?), but this is another holiday that is out of place. Blueberry season doesn’t really kick in around here until the early summer. The plants are just coming out of hibernation now, not even yet budding. In July and August, blueberries will be bursting in these parts and all the local farmstands will be practically begging you to make pies with their harvest. But now, the fresh blueberries around here are all from Chile or Argentina. And yes, the domestic season changes depending on what region you are in, but even the warmer US climates like Florida don’t start getting good berries until late April. In New England, prime time is mid-summer. When you celebrate something like blueberry pie, you are essentially celebrating the harvest of fresh blueberries not just the pie. You are so excited with your berry bounty that you have to find things to do with them. Making pie is one such way to use them up. In fact, it is a particularly awesome way to enjoy a fresh blueberry. I’m all for celebrating, it would just be more apropos in summer.
I’ve said before that pie is never my favorite dessert choice although I am intrigued by the romantic notions that seem to swirl around it. You can mention pie in a certain way and it evokes a warm response that not all desserts get. Pie is even particularly romanticized in movies and on tv when characters stop in small town diners and must have a piece of Edna’s famous homemade pie. It’s part of the allure of the pie. The magic. But for me, I’d always prefer a cake or cookie or brownie. Blueberry pie however is different. That’s a pie I like. I think it’s because I like berries and that’s what you get in a blueberry pie, and a whole lot of them. Visually, a blueberry pie is a vision of beauty with the dark purple hue of the filling contrasted against the golden brown crust which is offset by the stark whiteness of a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Ice cream on blueberry pie is a must. You need the creamy, milky taste to balance out the sweetness. Plus the balance of the warm pie and cold ice cream creates a little wow moment on your tongue. I’m a fan.
A few years ago on my birthday (in August – the height of blueberry season), Lola surprised me with a little getaway trip. We were living in New Hampshire at the time and we had both gotten used to hearing how great the blueberries are in our neighboring state of Maine. It was an odd little Maine fact that Mainers would oddly boast about, so we had been curious. Lola being Lola, she did some research and found a spot in Maine that offered one of the best blueberry pies in all New England if not the United States. She booked us a little trip to make that journey. The pie was at a spot called Helen’s in Machias, Maine which is about an hour and a half North East of Bar Harbor. It was quite a trek. What we both remember from that trip was the bed and breakfast we stayed at which had that cumbersome moment of us being the only two guests in the place and having to eat breakfast with the owners. The breakfast was filled with awkward conversation, some neat local facts (they showed us some pictures of a bobcat that had been spotted around town), and probably the worst breakfast I have ever been served. It was awful. In my mind, which has spent years trying to erase the memory, it was a dish of hard boiled eggs mixed in some kind of sausage gravy over biscuits with a mustard sauce too (as a reminder, I HATE mustard). I just gagged a little thinking about the whole thing. Lola and I couldn’t even look at each other while we were eating it, and because we were sitting with the owners, we had to choke it down. We left shortly there after and immediately commiserated on how bad it was. Then we went to Helen’s for pie. The pie was pretty good but to be honest, it wasn’t particularly amazing. Nothing really stood out about it even though it was delicious. But, we were still emotionally scarred by our breakfast, so in truth, our palates were likely off. We spent the next few days in Bar Harbor which was way more relaxing and fun and less saucy hard boiled eggs.
I was working today so I knew I had to crank out a pie early in the day which was not a problem. I had purchased my supplies the night before and I was ready. I found a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction which is a site I use quite often for sweet desserts. She called it “Simply the Best Blueberry Pie” and I trust her judgement, so I figured it was worth a try. The first part of this pie (and any pie) is making the crust and she gave nice easy directions to make your own. However, I have been a little hesitant about making my own crust because I seem to have a tough time with dough. I was also limited on time and happened to have a frozen pie crust in our freezer, so I went for the easy way and used the pre-made pie crust. All I had to then was fill it with blueberries. I bought two packages of frozen blueberries at the store (her recipe said frozen blueberries were ok to use too). You basically just mix the berries with some sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch and then dump it into your pie shell. That was super easy, although I may have overfilled. The final step was the top of the pie. Sally gave us a few options: you could top it with more dough so it would have a nice layer of crust on the top. She also broke down a few ways to go including a lattice pattern and a star pattern. Her other suggestion was making a crumble top which she directed you to another recipe for instructions. I hadn’t made my own dough, so adding another layer on top would have been tricky, so I went with the crumble which is actually my preference. It was kind of easy too, just a combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts, flour and butter. When it combined, you sprinkled it over the top. Then it was ready for the oven and it baked for about fifty minutes.
I timed it so that it came out of the oven about ten minutes before I left for work and then I let it rest (as instructed). I left it on a trivet but I put the trivet in a sheet pan just in case and it was a good thing. I must have overloaded the pie shell because when I got home from work about seven hours later, it was sitting in a slight puddle of blueberry juice. I think as the pie settled, the juice from the berries kept extracting and it went up and over the sides of the pie. It still looked fine, it was just a leaker. The crumble was still nice and brown on top. I was pretty happy with the result.
I had some after dinner served naturally with vanilla ice cream. The messiness of the blueberries made it a little hard to cut that perfect piece, but I still cut out a nice triangle which kind of changed shape when it hit the plate. This pie was particularly good. The berries were nice and juicy and every bite was filled with the sweet juice that was created in the filling. The crust on the bottom was nice and firm and gave the bites some texture, but the star was the crumble on top which brought in that added dose of texture with a sugary, nutty flavor to it. The ice cream melted slowly into the blueberry juice and the perfect bites were created. Lola opted for no pie tonight, but when she saw me eating it she naturally wanted a taste. She loved it too. I have a feeling she will have a piece today when I am at work. It was that good.
I have celebrated pie a bunch of times along this journey but I have to say that in regards to sweet pies, blueberry has been and probably always will be my favorite. To me, there’s no better pie. I was excited to have actually made one too even though I took a few short cuts along the way. There’s something about a fresh baked pie that fills a house with the most delightful smells and makes it feel homey. I wanted to leave it on the windowsill to cool like they do in cartoons. Best of all, it delivered a great taste (dare I say even better than Machias, ME). Yeah, I like blueberry pie and I was excited to celebrate today. It’s also gotten me excited for the blueberry season that is almost here. I can almost taste it. That means more blueberry pie will be coming this summer, but hopefully no hard boiled eggs in cream sauce will come with it.
Next up: National Shrimp Scampi Day