The author is a homemaker and retired medical transcriptionist. She holds a Masters degree in English and loves to write.
Everyone knows that a warm homemade blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream is exquisite. At least that is the consensus in my house. Yesterday my husband and I walked from our summer cottage in Bar Harbor, Maine, a short distance down the road and turned into the woods. There we followed a path covered with deadwood to a steep hill leading to an expansive blueberry field on top of the hill. We hit blueberry pay-dirt right away and never had to go deep into the patch. We were able to pick all of our berries along the edge. One might say we “found our thrill on Blueberry Hill.” We picked enough berries for at least three pies.
Picking berries is a difficult chore since you must bend at the waist and hold that position for hours while picking. Also, the berries are round and tiny, making them difficult to manipulate. It is easy to drop them. For these reasons you cannot hurry. On the other hand, cautiously picking one berry at a time gets you nowhere. Coming up with a good picking technique is required. This usually involves harvesting entire clumps of berries at a time by rolling them off their stems into your free hand or a container—even if you lose some to the ground.
Bugs and blazing sun add to the misery. Rather than bending at the waist, I usually find a little plot of earth and sit straight down in the middle of all the blueberries. Then, when I pivot around, I have access to all of the berries on every side of me. I can really relax and get more done this way. The stones and sticks dig into my legs and the bugs bite my butt, but I’d rather suffer dirty legs and bug bites than a lame back. Harvesting thousands of teeny-weeny berries is tough, but the effort is well worth it.
A homemade blueberry pie needs a homemade pie crust. Why squander even a single hard-earned blueberry by using a store bought crust? One of the major decisions I have had to make in my life is whether to keep my favorite pie cutter and rolling pin at the cottage, where I make pie in the summer, or keep them at my ‘real’ house where I spend the majority of the year. I actually have two really nice pie cutters and two really nice rolling pins—but even so, I still have my favorites and know where they are. I will leave you in suspense.
You might think I’m a pie whiz, but you’d be mistaken. Most of my pies are not really very pretty, despite the fact that they taste great. To master the art of pie-making, I’d have to do it more often. After rolling out the dough, you must lift what looks like a giant misshapen lily pad onto a pie plate. You gently lift and roll the exquisitely fragile dough edge onto your rolling pin, levitate the dough, and then flop it ‘centered’ onto the pie plate. It is not an easy task. No matter how much flour I use to dust my countertop, the rolled dough always seems to stick to it. Consequently the rolled dough tears a little bit when I lift it. It also tears when I roll it. It also tears when I move it around the pie plate. It tears a lot.
Patching a rolled pie is easier than rolling a pie. Luckily most of the patching is hidden inside the pie—and no one ever has to know how bad you messed up! Also, DON'T FORGET TO ADD THE SALT! I forgot the salt one time when we had visitors. The pie was bland and no one raved about it. I was repentant. Expectations for pie are very great.
One important thing I've learned through trial and error about making a pie crust is how to get a flaky crust. The secret to a flaky crust is to mix the flour and lard combination with the water as little as possible. Just kind of poke at it. Try not to handle or knead it too much. If the water and flour base quickly bind, you will get a flaky crust. Once it all sticks together—STOP.
The final pie-making conundrum is choosing what design to use for cutting the top crust vents. A mandala is really too much to hope for. Try a criss-cross pattern, a chicken feet pattern, a star pattern, an “S” pattern, or perhaps mark it with your grandchildren’s initials.
Confession time: Blueberry pie is not my favorite pie. It is my second favorite pie. My favorite pie is rhubarb pie. Rhubarb comes on the shelf at the grocery stores in Bar Harbor about three weeks before the blueberries ripen in the countryside. The local Hannaford always carries long, large, solid, perfect stalks of rhubarb. I can always count on them. A pie needs five cups of rhubarb. One large cut-up stalk measures just over one cup, so five stalks make a pie—and that’s what I buy. Eventually rhubarb goes out of season, leaves the store, and I am unhappy. What if I get the urge?