When I was younger, I spent a lot of my summer up at my grandparents’ cottage, which was close to a blueberry farm. We would go every summer during the blueberry season to pick enormous amounts of blueberries and I always got a blueberry ice cream cone.
While I did go through a phase where I thought blueberries were absolutely yucky (perhaps I’d eaten a few too many tart berries), I’ve realized in the past few years that blueberries make one heck of a good pie. And, blueberries are full of healthy antioxidants that stop free radicals from damaging your cells, which make diseases easier to obtain and has strong links to cancer. So why not eat blueberries! They’re delicious, they’re nutritious, and they’re beautifully coloured by anthocyanins (which colour them their character reddish-purplish blue).
I’m not going to claim I’ve mastered the whole pie thing, because I haven’t, but I have managed to make a few blueberry pies recently and it’s not very hard as long as you aren’t picky about the appearance of the pie. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?
First, you’ll need about 4 cups of frozen blueberries, or the recipe suggests 7 cups if they’re fresh.
Add your cup of sugar! While it may be tempting to reduce sugar in pie recipes, it does play an important role in stabilizing the gel that forms due to the cornstarch, and it prevents the starch from bursting and creating a thinner gel… aka a leaky pie! If you must reduce the sugar, you could add a little more cornstarch and hope for the best.
Here comes the most important guy: cornstarch! You can use flour instead as flour still contains starch, but flour has slightly less amylose (one of the starch molecules; the other is called amylopectin) which means it will not form as strong of a gel, so if you make this substitution, add a little extra flour to compensate for that.
Time to add lemon juice! I used some from a bottle because squeezing lemons is not fun when your hands are chapped from the cold Canadian winter.
The lemon peel can be grated using a fine toothed grater, such as this one. I’ve seen people try to use the really bumpy edge to grate a lemon and it just makes a mess. Add that straight into your pot. I actually didn’t bother measuring this, I just grated one full lemon.
Next up, you’ve got to take out your chilled pie crusts and roll ’em. I didn’t want to over-manipulate my pie crust (because that makes it less tender), so I accidentally made my dough too dry and it made a very difficult process for me. I’ll have to revisit the pie crust another time to get it right. To fix my problem, I wet my hands a little and worked the edges a little, then floured the rolling pin graciously, letting some flour dust the surface of the pie crust. This allowed me to roll it out and use a spatula to pick it up off the counter. You can see my crust doesn’t have enough overhang, which is why it became a hot mess later, but honestly, this pie is going to disappear in a few hours. It doesn’t have to be pretty.
I do not judge a pie by its crust.
Unfortunately, my pie crust top also was a little dry and the edges weren’t a good fit to the pie, so you can see it bubbled out and created a mess. This is why you’ll want to put your pie on a baking sheet before putting it in the oven, even if you made your pie crust all pretty.
Now the hard part… waiting to eat! You’ll need to let that pie cool for at least an hour so a proper gel can form. Those amylose particles I mentioned earlier need time to create bonds among your filling, which can only happen as kinetic energy decreases (i.e. the pie cools down). If you cut in too soon, the filling will all ooze into a puddle wherever you try to take a piece out.
Basic Blueberry Nutrition
- Vitamin C
- An antioxidant that fights cancer-causing free radicals
- Boosts your immune system
- Keeps your connective tissue in good shape (i.e. your gums, your tendons, skin, etc)
- Helps wounds heal faster
- Good source of fibre, which helps you feel full and cleans your digestive tract
Bon Appetit Desserts, by Barbara Fairchild
Best-Ever Pie Crust
Makes two disks (for one double crust pie or two single crust pies)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (or 1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated solid vegetable shortening or lard, frozen and cubed
5 tbsp (or more) ice water
- Blend the flour, sugar, and salt (either with a pastry blender or in a processor)
- Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal (or the chunks are relatively uniform and pea-sized). If using a processor, just beat on and off until desired consistency, then transfer to a bowl.
- Mix in 5 tablespoons of ice water, adding more by teaspoonfuls if needed to make the dough come together in moist clumps.
- Gather dough into a ball and divide it in half. Flatten these into disks and wrap them.
- Chill in fridge for an hour or more.
The Blueberry Filling
32 ounces of frozen blueberries (I used about 4 cups) or 7 cups of fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh or from the bottle is fine)
1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
2 of the Best Ever-Pie Crust disks
Heavy Whipping Cream (or egg or milk to brush)
Vanilla ice cream to serve
- Combine blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon peel in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it becomes thicker and bubbles, and continue to cook 1 minute longer. Be sure to stir occasionally. Let cool until just warm.
- Roll out dough disks until they are about 12 inches in diameter. Fit one of the disks into the pie pan, pressing it into the edges and trimming the overhang to around 1 inch.
- Pour the warm blueberry mixture into the pie crust and place the second 12 inch pie crust on top, pinching the edges to seal it. Cut a few slits in the surface to let air escape during baking.
- Brush crust edge with whipping cream, egg, or milk.
- Place pie on a baking sheet in case it gets messy, and put it in the oven for about 1 hour, or until the crust becomes golden brown.
- Cool the pie for at least 1 hour before serving.