I love berries of all sorts, but blueberries are my absolute favorite. Blueberries are considered a “super-food” because of their health benefits. They’re packed with phytonutrients, anthocyanins and other gigantic words that are used to describe the small, but mighty blueberry. But the best thing about blueberries is their fabulous flavor and the special memories they evoke.
My sister Rhonda Matias has mmm-marvelous memories of our mother’s fabulous blueberry pie. Mom always added a green apple to her blueberry filling, which gave it a hint of tartness as a counterpoint to the sweetness of the berries.
My sister (affectionately known by the family as Cookie) tells the story about how she had a craving for Mom’s blueberry pie and finally convinced her to bake one for her. It had become difficult for Mom to go shopping, so Cookie went to a small supermarket one Sunday morning and bought 2 cartons brimming with blueberries. They cost $4 each but my sister bought them anyways, rather than going to the big supermarket, going through the hassles of parking and standing in line.
Mom nearly went “meshugah” when she heard how much the blueberries cost. “You spent how much? I usually pay $2 a box!” My sister replied “When was the last time you bought blueberries? Don’t worry about it. I paid for the berries. Just make the pie!”
My mom used to bake a plethora of pies each summer when we went to Winnipeg Beach for our summer vacation. No electric stove, no running water, but we still called it “our vacation.” Each day, we shlepped a heavy pail of well water from the pump for a block or two, depending on where our rented summer cottage was located. I can still remember the fun of pumping the handle up and down until the slightly metallic water finally flowed into the pail. Then we carried the overflowing pail back to the cottage, sharing the heavy load in our tiny hands.
Mom would rinse the fresh berries in the newly pumped water, pat them dry, then prepare the filling for her wonderful blueberry pie. She would make her flaky pastry, rolling it out deftly with her heavy rolling pin on the rickety kitchen table. She would fill the pie shell to overflowing with her special blueberry-apple mixture, then carefully transfer the top crust to cover the “blue-ti-full” filling. We loved to sprinkle sugar on top. “Not too much sugar!” warned Mom.
Then Mom would test the temperature of the wood-burning stove to see if the oven was hot enough. She would put her hand in the oven quickly, then withdraw it even more quickly. We could never figure out how Mom knew when the oven was “just right.”
The pies always disappeared quickly, but the special flavor of their memory will last forever.
BELLE’S FAMOUS BLUEBERRY PIE
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of baking powder
2/3 cup chilled shortening (e.g., Crisco)
scant 1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp vinegar
Old-Fashioned Method: Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with 2 knives or a pastry blender until particles are the size of peas. Add water and vinegar slowly, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Shape into a ball.
Food Processor Method: Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and shortening in the food processor. Process with several quick on/off pulses, just until the particles are the size of peas. Add the water and vinegar and process just until dough gathers together in a ball, about 10 to 15 seconds longer.
Divide dough into 2 equal parts. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for easier handling. Prepare the blueberry filling.
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 large green apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
3 to 4 tbsp flour
1 to 2 tsp additional water, for brushing top of pie
1 tbsp additional sugar for sprinkling on top of pie
Combine berries, grated apple, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl; mix well.
Roll out 1 piece of dough about 1/8-inch thick. The board and rolling pin should be lightly floured. Keep pastry circular and roll it 1-inch larger than an inverted 9-inch pie plate. Fold pastry in half and transfer it to the pie plate. Unfold, being careful not to stretch dough. Place filling in pie shell and trim off overhanging edges. Moisten edge of bottom crust with water.
Roll out the top crust and make several slits to allow steam to escape. Place the top crust over the filling. Fold the overlapping edge of the top crust under the edge of the lower crust. Seal and flute, making sure edges are hooked onto the rim of the pie plate. Brush top crust lightly with water and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
Bake in a preheated 425 F oven (or a very hot wood-burning oven!) for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden. Inhale and enjoy!
When I asked my friend Kathy Guttman of Toronto for her favorite blueberry recipe, she responded quickly. “This is my family’s favorite cake. It’s the one recipe that everyone loves, which is unusual, because no matter what I bake, someone doesn’t like something!”
Kathy reduces the sugar from 1 1/4 cups to 1 cup in this berry-studded cake and it still comes out moist and tender. Kathy told our mutual friend Frieda Wishinsky how much she loved the recipe because she can whip it up in moments and it freezes beautifully, so Frieda has now added it to her repertoire. As we sat over coffee the other morning, they both agreed that this is one cake that should definitely be in everyone’s collection! Berry easy, berry delicious!
NORENE’S BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE CAKE
Source: The NEW Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz
An all-time family favorite! This is a winner. It’s also delicious with raspberries.
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar (can be reduced to 1 cup)
3/4 cup butter or margarine, cut in chunks
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Insert Steel Blade into the work bowl of a food processor. Process flour, sugar and butter or margarine until fine crumbs are formed, 12 to 15 seconds. Remove 1 cup of crumb mixture from processor and set aside.
Dissolve baking soda in sour cream or yogurt. Add to the crumb mixture in the food processor along with baking powder and eggs. Process for 6 to 8 seconds, just until blended, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Do not over process. Stir in blueberries by hand.
Spread batter evenly in sprayed 9-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until done.
Yield: 9 servings. Delicious warm or at room temperature. May be frozen.
The recipe for these scrumptious muffins comes from my cousin Nancy Gordon, another former Winnipegger. Winnipeg women are wonderful cooks and bakers and these berry-studded muffins are sure to enhance your reputation as a baker as well. I’ve lightened up these from Nancy’s recipe, which contained 3/4 cup of fat.
NANCY’S BLUEBERRY STREUSEL MUFFINS
Source: Healthy Helpings/MealLeaniYumm! by Norene Gilletz
1 tbsp tub margarine or oil
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
1 egg plus 2 egg whites (or 2 eggs)
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice (or concentrate)
1 1/2 cups flour (you can use part whole-wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp grated orange rind, optional
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
Topping: Mix together margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour until crumbly. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat egg, egg whites, sugar and oil until light. Add juice and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, orange rind and vanilla. Mix just until flour disappears. In a small bowl, combine blueberries with 1 tbsp flour and 2 tbsp sugar. Gently stir blueberry mixture into batter.
Line muffin pan with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with batter. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 375 F for 22 to 25 minutes, until golden.
Yield: 12 muffins. These freeze beautifully, if they don’t disappear in a flash!
Click on Healthy Helpings or The NEW Food Processor Bible to order these great cookbooks by Norene Gilletz.