It’s the height of blueberry season here in north Florida and I couldn’t turn down an invite to go to a local u-pick farm on Saturday morning. We set out early, beating the crowds and heat, and were able to meander through the rows of plants in a cool breeze and quiet. By 10 o’clock, the pony rides, stilt clowns making balloon animals, and food trucks were in full swing.
I’d heard about Jubilee Orchards, the Lawton Chiles family farm, but this was the first time seeing it. Following tree-lined, winding roads, the drive itself is not far at all, but I felt like I was in a completely different world when we arrived. I do always experience an instant full breath of relaxation and happiness on farms though.
The blueberry picking area was much larger than I thought it would be, with 50 acres of bushes sporting seven different cultivars. They are also currently transitioning 15 acres into a certified organic area. We both agreed that we were up for walking to the outskirts since we figured other people wouldn’t want to walk that far. That was a good decision. We were rewarded with berry-filled bushes all to ourselves.
One variety called “Farthing” had huge ones. Heh. Even in my big ol’ hands, the berry looked large. CHOMP. They were also deliciously sweet. I filled a good quarter of my bucket with just those. I knew I wanted a good assortment though, not only for fresh snacking, but for pies. Sampling a berry from each plant is pretty much a requirement. Not only from variety to variety, but from plant to plant, the tastes were different. Near the end of one section, we found some rows that the name had washed off the sign, so there’s no telling what kind they were, but the berries were all right at the tips of the branches. They looked like sticks of blue candy buttons up there. The fruits were smaller and had a slight kick of sour to them, making them a good pairing with the larger, sweeter “Farthing.”
I filled up with those and two other varieties before calling it a done deal. It was time to pay up and head out before the screeching delight of the childrens overpowered the tranquility of the farm. Heading home, I knew it was time to make the first blueberry pie of the season and I knew where I would get a recipe.
Four pounds of blueberries later, I was home flipping through the pages of one of the three pie-related books I received as a birthday gift this year–Pie School by Kate Lebo. This is my new favorite cookbook. Actually, it’s the only cookbook I’ve read through. I mean, I really read it. Usually, I find myself skimming through cookbooks looking at the recipes and pictures, but not with this one. She is not only an engaging writer, but she writes about the exact thoughts I have had on baking and tools and the creativity of it all. She is my new spirit animal. But human. Spirit human. Or something.
Moving on…I was having trouble deciding between two recipes, but decided that since I wanted to make a pie specifically to work on my crust, I would do the Maple Blueberry Pie and maybe do the Blueberry Lemon Verbena Galette another day. I started with gathering the needed ingredients and measuring out how many berries I would need by pouring them right into the pie plate I was going to use. Using my usual pie dough recipe, I threw in a heaping pinch of sugar on recommendation of the book. I just love the look of those chunks of butter in the dough when it’s rolled out. Mmmmm, buttah.
While the dough set in the plate in the fridge, I mixed up the berries with the lemon juice, good quality maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, butter, and flour. In typical fashion, I couldn’t follow the recipe strictly, so I also added a bit of powdered ginger. Poured the mixture into the bottom crust and fitted the top crust, sealing the edges with a fork and cutting proper air vents. Coated the top with an egg-white wash and demerara sugar crystals. So pretty.
Popped that baby blue onto the middle rack of the oven for twenty minutes at 425, then dropped the temp to 375 for another thirty-five minutes. I ended up having to cover the edges with aluminum foil so they didn’t burn, which was quite the ordeal. It had already been in the oven for the first twenty minutes when I realized I needed to do this. Instead of just taking the pie out of the oven to affix the foil, I stupidly thought I could do it quickly while it was still on the rack. Many hot, angry minutes later, I was sweating and filled with rage. I immediately went and ordered myself a pie ring
The battle with foil paid off with beautiful edges in the end. The fresh-picked berries made
a huge difference for texture and taste. They were perfectly cooked and the spices and syrup balanced each bite deliciously. After cooling for a few hours, the slices even held together pretty well. I was expecting it to be much messier when cut. Paired with a spoonful or two of classic vanilla ice cream, this pie was definitely a win. I will be making this one again before the blueberry season is over.
Pie Dough (makes both top and bottom crusts)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 sticks chilled, unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces
1/2 cup ice water
Two pinches of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Whisk the flour with the salt and sugar. Work in the butter until the pieces are about the size of walnuts. Slowly add in the ice water until the dough comes together. You may not need all of the water or you may need a little more. Go slowly. Separate in two, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge for thirty minutes or so before rolling out.
2 pounds blueberries, about 5 cups (I just pour the fruit into the pie plate to determine)
1/2 cup high-quality maple syrup–don’t skimp on this
Juice from 1/2 of a medium lemon (I used a Meyer Lemon because personal preference)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger (my addition)
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into small chunks
5 tablespoons flour
Egg wash, 1 egg white beaten with a splash of water