juicyberry pie: recipe for all juicy berries


Since my haskapberries went bonkers this year, I thought I’d turn some into pie.  The texture of these berries, which look like elongated blueberries and taste like a combination of tart boysenberry and wine grapes, is soft and juicier than blueberries.

Haskapberries!  I think I finally picked the last of them yesterday.  Not bad for a crop that ripened in the third week of May this year.  The berries sweetened and softened on the bushes, too, making even the annoyingly clingiest bush easy to pick.

IMG_7529This recipe is an adaptation of my blackberry pie recipe, but it works for haskaps and all juicy berries, really.  The main idea is to showcase the raw berry flavor and texture, but hold together the filling with a “paste” of cooked berries with a little thickener added.

Why am I so convinced this is the way to go?  Ah yes, my juice factory with the last haskapberry pie I made:

IMG_7666Tasted great; bled like a stuck pig.  So yeah, trust in me…I fail for you!

Plan ahead: the pie crust, the berry sauce, and the finished pie all need to be chilled before serving.  You’ll also need to buy some Clear Jel, a modified food starch that doesn’t break down after time, like corn starch does; you might substitute corn starch for less satisfactory results.

IMG_7664Juicyberry Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie.

  • 5-6 cups fresh haskapberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, or any juicy berry
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Clear Jel
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 prebaked and cooled pie shell (see recipe below)

The day before or several hours before you assemble the pie: prebake and cool a 9-inch pie crust.

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of berries and water. Mash berries well. Heat until boiling on medium high heat. In a small bowl, mix Clear Gel and sugar. When berries are boiling, add sugar mixture to berries, stirring constantly for one minute to set the starch and thicken the juice. When thick, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Don’t omit the cooling process.

(Whoa!!  A note from our sponsor about blueberries:  You might want to add the fresh blueberries to the hot slurry mix instead of waiting for it to cool down so they soften a bit.  Your goal is to have a fresh tasting pie, not cooked, but blueberries benefit from a little taming.)

Pour cooled sauce over top of rest of fresh berries in a large bowl.  Stir gently to combine with sauce, trying not to break berries. Chill well, at least an hour before serving.

Slice with sharp knife and use pie server to aid transfer of servings, as the pie will be looser than pies made with cooked fruit. Top with whipped or ice cream.

Prebaked Pie Crust

1/4 cup cold water with ice cubes in it
3/4 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I’ve tried soft pastry flour and white whole wheat; it never works as well as just plain ol’ flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
9 Tbsp. (4 ½ oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

About 30 minutes before you plan to make the crust, throw butter and a bowl of iced water in the freezer.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend, then  add the chilled butter.  Pulse until it looks like a coarse meal (the old way is to say ‘alligator’ six times) and the butter is in tiny pieces but still very visible.  Measure out 1/4 cup of water from your chilled bowl of ice water, then add the vinegar to the water.  Slowly add the water-vinegar mixture to the flour meal, pulsing until the dough starts to come together.  You want it to be right on the borderline between crumbly and a clump of dough.  You may need to add a tiny bit more water.

Gather the dough and mound it on a clean surface.  Now here’s the fun part.  Take egg-sized bits and press down with the heel of your hand, “smearing” the butter and flour together.  Then shape all the dough into a disk about 1 ½ inches thick, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate it for a few hours to two days.

When you are ready to roll, take the dough out to soften for 15-30 minutes (you want it cold but pliable, and not sticky).

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle with the diameter of about 11 inches. As you roll from the center outward, turn the dough so you ensure it doesn’t stick.  Add flour to the surface and your pin as needed. Transfer the dough gently into your pie dish, and press it to shape.

Trim any dough to about an inch larger than the dish edge, then fold the dough under, pinch all along the top, and prick dough with a fork all over, including the sides. Place the pie crust in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the empty pie shell (this is called blindbaking, and helps combat sogginess) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, on the lower third of the oven.

Cool the pie shell to room temperature before adding filling.


dark days challenge #3: wild mushroom shepherd’s pie

This weekend was the perfect storm for wintery cuisine:  (1) the last day of school was Friday, (2) I’m working on some cookbook reviews for the Eugene Weekly, and (3) it has been freezing — the cold front will hover for most of the week.  So I spent considerable time cooking warm comfort food: a rosemary leek bread pudding, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, baked Korean ribs with a Brussels sprout stir-fry, buttery rosemary roasted sweet potatoes, and on and on.

The holiday market at the Fairgrounds is in full swing, and bustling with shoppers buying local crafts.  We picked up a woven wool scarf for Retrogrouch from John Meyers, but spent most of the time mulling over winter produce at the farmer’s market area.  This year it’s in the room adjoining the holiday market instead of the building to the north, and I’m sure that increases foot traffic.  I was amazed and pleased by the range of offerings.  I managed to snap up the last local sweet peppers in town for freezing, celery, carrots, leeks, three different kinds of persimmon and three different kinds of wild mushroom (plump golden chanterelle, hedgehog and candycap), and some potatoes, garlic, and storage onions.

I wanted to crawl inside an insulating snuggie made of mashed potatoes, so I did.

Making a shepherd’s pie is easy.  This old English one-pot supper is basically a layer of juicy ground lamb, fortified with an army of peas, carrots, and onions and a moat of broth all nestled under a topping of mashed potatoes.  The dish is finished in the oven, where the mashed potatoes are browned on top. When you scoop into the pie, the brothy meat juices mix with the potatoes, and you have the most wonderful, comforting dish ever.

The picture immediately above is the dish ready for its final oven browning.  With the local base vegetables I bought at River Bend Farm and Groundwork Organics (potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, carrots and celery), and Cheviot Hill ground lamb, I had a terrific start on this pie.  After browning the lamb and onions, I added the rest of the aromatics — carrot, leek, garlic, and celery.  When everything looked soft and slightly caramelized, I combined the vegetables with the lamb, added rosemary, a bit of wine and a chunk of tomato paste from the freezer, then loosened the fond from the pan with about a cup and a half or so of chicken broth.

Unsatisfied with pure meat in mah pie, I thought I’d add a layer of earthiness with all the wild mushrooms I had bought — probably about a pound’s worth.  Our golden chanterelle season is just about over, but the hedgehogs and candycaps are plentiful.  Candycaps add a slight maple-syrupy sweetness to the lamb.  (I used about half of the cup or so I bought, and dried the rest for future experiments.)  The mushrooms were sautéed in butter and salt, and then layered atop the lamb with their juices.

The rosemary was from my own garden, and I used a heavy hand.  Butter and cream were from Noris Dairy, as usual, and the chicken broth was from my freezer, via Draper Valley (not local but nearby in WA).  The only thing you really need to remember with shepherd’s pie is that you need the bottom layer to be quite brothy — I think I used two cups total, plus the liquid from the cooking mushrooms, for a standard 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  A nice slug of local red wine finished it off.

Also not local:  a tablespoon of tomato paste, salt, pepper, and allspice.

I served the dish with some steamed local broccoli, simple as can be, and some homebaked chocolate chip cookies.   My husband thought he had died and gone to heaven.  It was that good.

the reluctant baker uses pie weights for salad


Still fine-tuning my blackberry pie recipe, adapted from this one.  Made a single crust pie for our July 4 celebration, full of plump, juicy, tangy, just-picked tayberries.  Way more delicious than blackberries, in my opinion. I’m a big fan of fresh, non-sugary pies, so I really want to perfect this one recipe. It’s almost there, but not quite.  I love the crust, but the consistency is still slightly off.

As you know, I’m not a baker, and am beginning to think that I need to have three or four recipes in my repertoire that I can trot out when necessary, kind of like the people who don’t cook but have a specialty or two they’re known for at potlucks and such.  Yes, that’s my attitude toward baked goods.  I’d much rather have someone else deal with their flaky, sugary, fragile, fussy, sensitive, hard to transport little bodies.  And I’m fortunate enough to have several friends who are passionate about baking, so it always works out.

In true non-baker fashion, even as delicious and fresh as the pie was, I quickly grew a bit bored of the proceedings and the stickiness and the tedious dough rolling, and my attention shifted.  I had used the time-honored trick of dried beans to keep the crust flat while baking the empty shell, and the home economist in me thought hm, these beans shouldn’t go to waste; I wonder if they would still cook up after baking them at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.

And sure enough, they did.  I soaked the previously pie-shelled anasazi beans (hey, I don’t keep cheap beans around!) and cooked them late at night, when the weather was cooler, then threw together an impromptu bean salad with errant vegetables and other refrigerator specialties for lunch.


I tossed the beans with my homemade basil oil and my Hungarian chili and garlic vinegar, a roasted red pepper, some toasted pine nuts, and a big handful of fresh celery with its leaves.  A glob of homemade sundried tomato mustard and some freshly ground pepper spiced it up a bit, and I served it with tiny romaine lettuce leaves from a cultivar that makes little round heads.  Yep, a leftovers special, but oh wow, did it taste good.

And it gave me fortitude to scrub the berry goo and flour off the counters and walls.  So see — I can bake!