Berry picking was a regular summer weekend activity for my family when I was growing up. Most berry picking expeditions were fun, but there were times when we kids dreaded those hot afternoons on logging roads and in the woods, when the only breezes were fanned by deer flies and mosquitoes and the berries were few. When we found a good patch, however, it was fun to fill our pails while we looked forward to all the good things our mother would make.
My sister Barbara published a small book for our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with photos and notes by my siblings and me. One that I contributed was about berry picking.
A Catalog of Berries
What did we gather
From roadsides and fence rows?
What fruits did we pick
On hot summer days?
First wild strawberries,
Then Juneberries and blueberries,
Followed by raspberries, blackberries
And pin cherries and sometimes some
Chokecherries and wild plums too.
Made into shortcakes,
Baked into pies,
Turned into jams
And jellies and sauces
To cool us on hot days
And warm us on cold days
With memories of summer
In the middle of winter.
But enough of this. The blueberries are plump and starting to ripen. In two weeks, the Lord willing, you can be picking your own blueberries. Just drive the backwoods through the county and national forests north of highway 70 until you find some open pine woods.
Stop the car and walk into the woods. You may not find any the first two or three stops, but if you keep looking, suddenly you will be walking through a carpet of blueberries. Drop to your knees and fill your pail, then head home to make blueberry pie.
Here is my recipe. It is based on one from an old cookbook of my mother’s that I used for my first blueberry pie in 1954. It is best made with wild blueberries, but tame blueberries are okay. The pie is easy to make and delicious, especially when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Pie dough for a double crust
4 cups fresh wild blueberries
3/4 cup sugar plus extra to decorate the top crust
4 T all purpose flour
Dash of salt
2 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. butter
Wash the blueberries and remove any stems, leaves or bad berries. Drain the berries and mix them with the other ingredients in a large bowl. Set the bowl aside for at least fifteen minutes while you are making the pie crust.
Preheat the oven to 450º.
Line a nine-inch pie plate with the crust. Stir the blueberries and fill the crust. Dot with four or five pea-sized pieces of butter. Cover with a top crust and seal the edges. Make a few slits in the crust to allow steam to escape and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Put it into the hot oven and bake for ten minutes. Reduce the heat to 350º and bake thirty-five or forty minutes until the crust is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool thoroughly before serving.
NOTE: This pie always seems to run over in the oven. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch the overflow. This is actually a pretty good idea for any pie. If you prefer, make a lattice for the top crust.