Nothing says “summer” like a berry pie. When my daughters were little, we used to go to a pick-your-own blueberry farm every summer, eat lots of fresh berries, then make jam and one delicious pie. The owners were hard-working and their orchard provided jobs for simpatico* workers, from Mexico and Central America, as well as local teenagers. It was sad when they retired and closed down their business a few years ago, but we continued our tradition of making a berry pie every summer with whichever local berries we had at hand from the store.
To keep the redolence of those afternoons spent at the berry patch, I started growing strawberries, then got my precious black currant bush (a gift from a now departed, dear friend), and I added a few raspberry canes I found at a local nursery. Blueberries are hard to grow, needing cross pollination and very specific soil conditions, but I learned about Chippewa blueberries, a resilient variety that does not require cross pollination, so I ordered one seedling to try a new backyard adventure. Last year, the seedling had grown enough to maybe produce some fruit, so I built a cage with chicken wire, topped with plastic netting, to keep birds and furry animals away from the blueberry bush and a few strawberry plants:
Not a pretty sight, but it worked great, and I got the first three blueberries from my Chippewa plant:
This year, the plant looks healthy, but I have had no luck with fruit, maybe the caging is also discouraging bees from pollinating:
And this year has not been a great one for berries in my garden, in general. Two years ago, I had a bumper crop of raspberries, so our summer pie was made with homegrown fruit; this season, though, without a breath between very hot days, and too much rain at once, not only the blueberry bush, but my other berries have been much less productive. Here are some pictures of my crops, to compare with previous years:
Long story short, this year’s pie was made with mixed berries: two cups of raspberries and one cup of black currants from the garden, and supplemented with one cup of store-bought Ontario blueberries. The result was actually wonderful: a sweet and sour mixture of flavours, and the colour was a pretty shiny dark purple (pictured at the top of the post.) The recipe is basically the same as for my 2018 raspberry pie, which will work great with any berry, or combination, store-bought or homegrown, especially if made with my mom’s, tested and trusted, pie crust recipe.
Best of the Season Berry Pie
Pay de las mejores moras de temporada
Pie Crust (makes one 9-inch)
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
1 tbsp sugar
For brushing: 1 egg or 1 tbsp milk mixed with ½ tsp sugar
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch (for example, Maizena™)
4 cups fresh berries (mix of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)
½ cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For pie crust: Mix flour and baking powder; cut butter in the flour mix with a wooden spatula, then rub with fingers until a sandy texture is reached. Make an opening in the centre, place egg and sugar there and mix, then incorporate everything into a soft dough. Roll and place on a 9-inch pie mold. Wrap dough around the rim of the mold and press with fingers or a fork, to avoid shrinkage during baking, and either use baking beads or prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. Brush around edge with egg or milk/sugar mix. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Let cool before adding filling.
For the filling: Combine sugar, cornstarch, 2 cups of the berries and water in a pot. Bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat and stir until mix thickens and turns clear, about 5 minutes. Mix in the butter, vanilla and the rest of the berries, reserving a few of the best looking for decoration. Remove from heat and let stand for 15-20 minutes; pour in baked pie crust and refrigerate for at least one hour. Decorate with reserved berries:
“Simpatico, which derives from the Greek noun sympatheia, meaning “sympathy,” was borrowed into English from both Italian and Spanish. In those languages, the word has been chiefly used to describe people who are well-liked or easy to get along with; early uses of the word in English reflected this, as in Henry James’s 1881 novel The Portrait of a Lady, in which a character says of another’s dying cousin, “Ah, he was so simpatico. I’m awfully sorry for you.” In recent years, however, the word’s meaning has shifted. Now we see it used to describe the relationship between people who get along well or work well together.”
The word in Spanish is pronounced the same way, but written with an accent, also considering the gender of the subject it modifies: simpático or simpática.