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Volume 37 Issue 10, - June 28-July 4, 2007 now in our 37th season

4th of July Blueberry Pie

by Maryjane Mojer

My dad is great mechanic and he still works part time.  I am not allowed to reveal his age but we should all be so lucky to have that ability when we’ve been around that long.  For thirty some odd years, he worked at Al Silva’s on North Beach Street.  There are still a few cars around with the silver Al Silva stickers on them; mostly old jeeps; Wagoneers and the like.  The used car lot across from the garage was our vantage point for the fireworks on the fourth of July every year. 

Maybe it’s childhood amnesia, but I don’t remember the fireworks getting fogged out ever, though I’m sure they did.  We would head down to the lot around 6:30 or so to beat the crowds, bring a picnic supper and climb on the roof of my Dad’s Willy’s, or into the back of his truck onto a pile of blankets..  Once it was sufficiently dark, the show would begin.  We were as close as my Dad would let us get. Oh, we knew people who would throw caution to the wind and actually go down to the Jetties, and we did venture down there once.  Dad was, and is, very careful.  Anywhere we landed was just fine with me, and the excitement of the bangs and booms was made even more breathtaking with each passing round with the absolute thrill in the grand finale. 

Sometimes we would stay till the bitter end, and I would fall asleep in the back of the car on the way home.  Other times, Dad would be concerned about traffic and we would head home early, craning our necks to see what we could only hear.

In my memory, summer itself was patriotic and the cause for the celebrations was not lost on us as kids.  The official kickoff was Memorial Day with lilacs, soldiers, and flags.  The parade would stop at the various memorials to show respect for the fallen soldiers.  At the cemetery, the significance of the occasion was marked by Taps and followed by the twenty-one gun salute.  I’m sure the watermelon, corn on the cob, pies, and burgers on the grill helped the appeal of the fourth of July but the thrill of the fireworks combined with the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner drove it home for all of us. Every house had flags draped from the windows or hanging off of their porches.  The colors of summer seemed to be red, white and blue.

Like many holidays, the Fourth of July is celebrated with good food.  Also, like many holidays, tradition can help to set the menu.  It seems odd that apple pie is so popular when apples are more of a fall fruit.  The following recipe for pie crust can certainly be used for apple pie, but blueberry pie is my favorite for the fourth.

Basic Pie Crust
(This will be enough for one pie with a top and bottom crust.)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cold, unsalted butter
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

  • This goes together very quickly in a food processor.  Mixing it by hand is not difficult and gives you a chance to really have control over your dough. (It also leaves one less thing to wash!)
  • If processing, place all dry ingredients in the food processor, fitted with the blade attachment.  Add butter, cut into chunks.  Add ice cold water, by tablespoons, pulsing till dough just comes together.  Dump out of the bowl, wrap in plastic, flatten into a disc and chill for at least an hour.
  • If you’re mixing by hand, you can use to butter knives to cut the butter into the flour, or a pastry blender, or your fingers.  You want to use just your fingertips so that the warmth of your hands doesn’t melt the butter, and work quickly. 
  • Once you have the butter and dry ingredients combined, add the water bit by bit and pull into a ball.

A word about kneading:  When you’re eating baked goods, you’ve noticed, I’m sure, that they all have different textures.  Cookies are crumbly, bread is more substantial, cakes are, well, cakier.  This is due, in part, to the ingredients.  It is also due, in part, to the way the ingredients are put together. When you add flour to a recipe, the more you mix it, the more gluten will develop.  Gluten is the substance that gives bread it’s somewhat chewy, bready texture.  For pie crust, you want tender and flakey, so be gentle!

  • Wrap your dough in plastic, flatten into a dish and chill.

I like to make my filling while my dough is chilling.  (A new slogan!)  It is very quick and very easy to buy blueberry pie filling in a can, along side the apple pie filling, cherry pie filling, and so on.  This is just fine. It’s still a pie, it’s still homemade, and it’s still yummy.  In fact, the premade crusts are pretty great, too.  Your downtime in the summer is valuable, and your family will not be any less appreciative or any less loved if you go that route.

If, however, you yearn for the whole pie making experience, forge on.  Blueberries on Nantucket should be ready any time now.  They have a flavor like no other and if you are patient enough to pick enough, they’re well worth the effort.  Watch out for ticks and poison ivy!  Blueberries in the market are also gorgeous, and frozen blueberries work well.

Blueberry Pie Filling

Toss together all of the following:
6 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup cornstarch

  • Divide one disc of chilled pie dough in half.  On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out your pie dough.  I like to form each half into a disc and gently begin to press it out with the palm of my hand.  Once it’s a bit flatter, start to roll from the center out, giving it a quarter turn after each roll.  This does take practice so be kind to yourself take your time.
  • Roll both halves out, and line a sprayed pie pan with one crust.  Let the excess crust hang over the edge, and pour the blueberry mixture in.  Dot generously with butter and top with the second crust. 

There are as many ways to seal a pie as there are bakers.  I like to use my kitchen shears to trim the crust to about a half inch from the edge of the pan, then fold the top crust under the bottom crust.  Once that’s done, I use a fork to crimp and seal the edge.  Egg wash the crust, cut a couple of holes (to vent the steam) and sprinkle generously with sugar.  

  • Bake at 400 degrees for fifteen minutes then drop the crust to 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.  The internal temp, should you want to check, will be about 175 degrees.  When the filling is bubbling about the steam holes, your pie is done.

Letting your pie sit for an hour or so is a good idea.  As it cools, the filling will come together a bit more and be easier to serve.  Frozen berries are a bit juicier.

Vanilla ice cream is a must, and I believe a law in some states.  For a triberry pie, replace a cup of the blueberries with strawberries and a cup with blackberries or raspberries.

Happy Fourth!

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