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Berry Delicious Summer Pies
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When Maine berries are ripe for the pickin’, making pies keeps eaters grinnin’

In her 2009 novel Home Safe, Elizabeth Berg explores how women move forward after unexpected loss. Berg’s protagonist likens life to gathering summer berries into an apron with a hole in it.


“Why do we keep on?” the newly widowed Helen Ames asks. She answers herself: “because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.”


Making pie with Maine summer berries is a promising act. Pie is made to be shared; optimistic thinking in this time of isolation. Pie also pays tribute to the people who bring these ingredients to the plate: those who tend wild blueberry barrens, cultivate fresh strawberries, forage elderberries, brave the thorns of blackberry thickets, and grow wheat (also called “berries”) to be milled into flour.


Amber Lambke, founder of Maine Grains, Inc., a Skowhegan milling operation that sources grains and cereals from Northeastern farmers, has definite ideas about the perfect pie crust. The best of her products for making a short pastry crust is the organic wheat pastry flour. This flour is low in protein, resulting in a tender, flaky crust. “The aroma … is simply buttery,” says Lambke, adding that she also uses plenty of actual butter in her crust. Our pie dough recipe (see page XX) is an adaptation of one of Lambke’s.


Denise Alexander married into a wild blueberry–tending family over 30 years ago. During the hectic summer harvest on her family’s 40-acre Greenfield farm, she doesn’t have time to bake with fresh berries. Her favorite treatment for just-picked blueberries (10-pound boxes of which are sold on the farm) is in her morning bowl of Special K.


When she does make pie, Alexander uses frozen wild Maine berries and the same recipe (link). Her secret lies in layering filling ingredients into the pastry dough. She adds enough berries to measure just below the rim of the pie plate, then adds flour and uses her hand to gently sift it down through the berries, coating them to stop the sugar (sprinkled on next) from clumping. She flavors the pie with cinnamon and lemon juice, like we do in our Maine Wild Blueberry and Cinnamon Hand Pies recipe. Alexander places thin slices of butter across the filling’s surface before covering and crimping the crust. The result? “It’s perfect every time,” says Alexander.


Brunswick’s Abbie Sewall is an elderberry advocate. Once an elderberry farmer in Freeport, she currently operates a website (link) on how this indigenous bush is easily propagated, used as an immune booster, and included in many culinary creations, including pie.


When she grew her own and had a significant supply, Sewall used fresh or frozen elderberries as the primary pie ingredient. Since elderberries have gained traction as an antioxidant, they’ve become quite dear. She suggests a more affordable option is adding a handful of dried ones to a favorite apple pie recipe. The berries soften as they cook (to 130 degrees to neutralize the naturally occurring cyanides), giving the pie juices a purple hue; a tart, earthy flavor; and an interesting crunch.


The following recipes are our attempt at showcasing the Maine summer berry bounty. If you have a pretty berry pie you’d like to share with edible Maine readers, post a picture with the tag #prettyMaineberrypies and we’ll pass it along.


Maine Grains Double Crust Pie Dough


Makes 1 (9-inch) double crust pie


2 cups Maine Grains wheat pastry flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

¾ teaspoons sugar

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) frozen butter, grated

½ cup ice water


Combine flours, salt, sugar, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. 


Pulse until the mixture is the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Add water all at once and pulse 8–10 more times until the dough comes together. 


Press dough into round disks, or square or rectangle blocks, as recipes call for them. Wrap dough and keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days or in freezer for up to 2 months.


Maine Wild Blueberry and Cinnamon Hand Pies


Makes 8 hand pies


2 cups wild Maine blueberries, fresh or frozen

⅓ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch (increase to 2 ½ tablespoons if using frozen berries)

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 recipe Maine Grains Double Crust Pie Dough, formed into a 4-inch square block

1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons coarse sugar, for garnish


If using fresh berries, rinse and drain well. If using frozen berries, take them directly from the freezer. Place berries in a saucepan. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle sugar mixture over berries. Add lemon juice, stirring to combine. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the liquid in the bottom of the pan comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, 2–3 minutes. Transfer cooked berries to a bowl and cool to room temperature.


Place a rack on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


Roll pie dough into a 14-inch square. Cut dough into 16 (3 ½-inch) squares. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of 8 of the squares. Brush beaten egg along the edges of each filled square. Use a knife to cut a vent into each of the remaining 8 squares. Top each filled square with a vented square and press along the edges with a fork to seal.


Brush the top of each pie with egg and sprinkle with raw sugar. Transfer pies to prepared baking sheet. Bake until pies are golden brown, 18–20 minutes. Remove pies from oven and cool 20 minutes before serving.

Store pies, lightly wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days; freeze for longer storage.


Bumbleberry Rhubarb Lattice-Topped Pie


Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


1 recipe Maine Grains Double Crust Pie Dough, wrapped in 2 disks

3 cups highbush blueberries or 2 ½ cups Maine wild blueberries

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 cup diced rhubarb

½ cup granulated sugar

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons coarse sugar, for garnish


Roll out 1 disk of dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate the whole pie plate while preparing filling.

In a large bowl, combine blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and rhubarb. Add sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt. Gently mix to combine. Remove pie crust from fridge and scoop in fruit mixture. Leave any extra juice in the bowl as adding it to the pie now will result in a soggy pie bottom.


Roll out the second pie disk into a 10-inch circle. Cut dough into 12 strips. Lay 6 strips vertically and evenly spaced on top of the filled pie. Use longer strips in the center of the pie and shorter strips on the ends. Fold every other strip (3 in total) back so they are almost falling off the pie. Lay 1 of the 6 unused strips perpendicular and over the top of the 3 vertical strips still laid over the filling. Pull down the 3 vertical strips you previously lifted to the edge of the pie, so they lie over the perpendicular strip.


Take the 3 vertical strips you have not touched yet and fold them back to the single horizontal strip on the pie. Lay 1 unused strip perpendicular to the 3 strips already on the pie.  of the filling. Pull down the 3 vertical strips you previously lifted so they lie over the newest perpendicular strip; you can now start to see the woven pattern. Repeat this process with the remaining 4 strips of dough until the entire pie is covered. Fold the excess dough that lies over the edges of the pie back and pinch it with the bottom pie crust. Brush the edges and latticework with egg wash and sprinkle with a little coarse sugar.


Refrigerate unbaked pie for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Transfer the pie from the refrigerator onto a rimmed baking sheet. Slide pie into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, and the filling is bubbling and thick, 50–60 minutes. Remove pie from oven and cool for 45 minutes before slicing.


Elderberry Apple Slab Pie


Makes 1 (10- by 15-inch) slab pie


2 ½ pounds tart apples (about 5 large), peeled and sliced

2 ½ pounds sweet apples (about 5 large), peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ recipes Maine Grains Double Crust Pie Dough, formed into 2 (4- by 6-inch) blocks

¼ cup dried elderberries

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of salt


In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and zest, ¾ cups of sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt, and toss until coated.


On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 block of dough into an 18- by 13-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking sheet and gently work it into the corners and along the edges of the pan. Trim any overhang to 3/4 inches. Turn apple mixture onto dough and spread it out into an even layer. Sprinkle elderberries evenly over the apples. Tuck pieces of butter into the apples all around the pie.


Roll second block of dough into a 16- by 11-inch rectangle. If desired, use a small cookie cutter to make a series of shapes in the dough. Transfer dough (leaving the cutouts on the counter) to drape over filling. Fold the bottom crust’s overhang up over edges of the top dough. Crimp edges. Place cutouts around surface of pie. If you have not made any cutouts, use a paring knife to cut 9 small slits over the surface. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.


Position rack in the lower half of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

Brush beaten egg mixture over top of crust and sprinkle evenly with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.


Place pie in oven. Bake until top crust is golden, 20–25 minutes. Rotate pie and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.


Strawberry Ginger Icebox Pie

 
This recipe calls for a blind-baked pie shell. Check our Edible Maine blog for step-by-step instructions.


Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


3 cups crushed strawberries (about 2 pounds), fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons water
4 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Pinch of salt
2 ½ cups thinly sliced fresh strawberries (about 1 pound)

½ recipe Maine Grains Double Crust Pie Dough, blind-baked and cooled
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream


Cook crushed berries in large saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and is reduced to 2 cups, about 20 minutes.


Combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, lemon zest, ginger, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer. Cook only until the sugar dissolves, 1–2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Fold fresh berries into filling and spread mixture evenly in pie shell. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.


Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. With mixer running, add heavy cream and whip until stiff peaks form, 2–3 minutes. Serve chilled pie with whipped cream topping.

Christine has lived in many places, including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, England and France. But her professional world has consistently been grounded in just two: in journalism and in the kitchen. Throughout her 30-year writing career, she’s covered sports, politics, business and technology. But for the past 10 years after completing culinary school, she’s focused on food. Her words and recipes about eating locally and sustainably have appeared in publications from The Portland Press Herald to Fine Cooking. Her award-winning cookbook Green Plate Special (link is: https://www.amazon.com/Green-Plate-Special-Sustainable-Delicious/dp/1944762140) was published in 2017. When she’s not laboring over a cutting board or a keyboard, she’s learning from her two semi-adult children, a community of food-minded friends, hundreds of productive Maine farmers, thousands of innovative chefs near and far, and her 30,000 honeybees.

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