If it’s July it’s blueberry season.
Blueberries are one of the easiest crops you can grow. I give them some acid loving fertilizer in the spring and put a layer of mulch beneath them, but otherwise you just plant the bushes in a sunny spot and let them grow. I’ve heard of people planting them in front of their house as a part of their foundation planting. If you have one of those fussy HOA’s that forbids you from gardening in the front yard, blueberry bushes might be one of the foods you could grow and get away with. Blueberries are an attractive shrub. They look a bit like azaleas. I doubt that many people would know the difference from the street. Or they won’t, that is, until they see you picking quarts of berries from that pretty shrub next to the front porch. You’d better lurk in the shadows after dark to do your berry picking.
I’ve been picking one to two quarts of berries every few days. I have three bushes and they give me more than enough berries for baking pies and muffins and making blueberry pancakes for myself and my husband. There are plenty left over to share or pack away in the freezer. You don’t need a lot of bushes to harvest a good number of berries.
With so many berries, it was time to bake some pies. I’ve never been completely happy with my blueberry pie recipe so this summer I have experimented with new ones. I tried some basic berry pie recipes, including some that claim to be “the best ever” and “my husband’s favorite berry pie” but I still wasn’t happy with the results. Because blueberries have such a firm skin the sugar and thickening agent doesn’t incorporate well with the berries unless you give the pie a lot of extra baking time. Adding extra baking time though, can over brown the crust and turn the berries to mush. Those pies tasted good, but they were not the pie I was looking for.
I came across berry pie recipes that use a cooked filling in a pre-baked crust. This type of pie is supposed to have the freshest berry texture and taste. That part got my attention but it still was not quite what I was looking for. I wanted a traditionally baked pie– a pie with both a top and bottom crust.
Those recipes did give me an idea. What if I started with a cooked filling, added fresh berries, and baked it in a traditional crust? I’d seen this done with strawberry pie. I didn’t see any reason it wouldn’t work for blueberries too.
Making this pie was super simple. Combining the sugar and thickening agents with some of the fresh berries in the saucepan made a perfect base that solved several common pie problems. There was no more guesswork about what kind or how much thickening agents to use to prevent a runny pie that doesn’t set. I was able to see right from the start how thick the filling would be. I wasn’t tempted to add additional thickener which can make a pie taste too “cornstarchy.” And there was no more chance of running into a clump of under-baked sugar or tapioca even though I reduced the baking time of the pie allowing the added berries to maintain their shape and giving the pie the fresh berry flavor I was looking for. To give the pie that pretty glossy brown sheen, I brushed it with a simple egg wash. The resulting pie was perfect!
Easy as a Fresh Blueberry Pie
In a saucepan blend ¾ cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca, 1 ½ Tbsp. cornstarch, ½ cup water and 2 cups blueberries. Heat just until thickened and until the blueberries burst and give you a deep purple filling. Remove from heat and let cool.
Stir in ½ tsp. of lemon peel. Fold in 3 cups fresh blueberries. Pour into a a prepared unbaked pie crust. Adjust the top crust or add a lattice top and flute the edges. Bake in a hot oven 450º for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
To get a golden brown, glossy sheen to your crust, prepare a simple egg wash (beat one egg with two Tbsp. water) and brush it lightly onto your crust before baking.