Thursday, August 26, 2010
Blackberry Apple Pie
After I write this, I'm going to pick some blackberries. In the spring, I planted raspberries and while I was at it, I gave the blackberries that surround the house some compost and a little extra water. They seem to have responded to my gesture, and are ripening by the handful. Hopefully you have some wild blackberries growing nearby, or you can head down any back road and likely find some in no time. They are beautiful plants, especially right now, when berries of all colours from green to red to black occupy the same branch. If you can't find them wild, they are available right now at many farm markets, and just a small amount of them will add a lot of flavour to your seasonal baking.
I can't get through this season without thinking about how I met the father of my kids. I was on Saltspring Island at the time, where the wild blackberries grow so profusely that you could live off them, like a bear. Bakeries in the town of Ganges buy berries from anyone who will bother to pick them. I was living in a tent at the time, and some friends of mine and I decided to pick some blackberries and take it one step further-bake Blackberry Apple pies and sell them by the piece, with ice cream, at the Farmer's Market. We picked gallons of berries near a construction site. Adrian and Dennis hadn't made pastry before, so they let me take the lead, buying flour and shortening and apples at the Thrifty's supermarket downtown. The three of us settled into a long afternoon and evening of peeling apples, measuring sugar and berries, and rolling pastry, using my friend Jill's kitchen.
The next morning, we set off to make our fortune. We had brought spoons, plates, and ice cream in a cooler along with our 15 or so pies. We had planned to cut each into 8 pieces, and sell it for $3. Sales were slow in the morning, but Adrian was a charming salesman and roved the market, directing people to us. A tall, dark and handsome man who I had seen many times, but to whom I hadn't been introduced, came and bought a piece. He was a friend of Adrian's and they settled into a conversation. Soon, he was heading to the nearest Cafe and came back with coffee for all of us. Another piece of pie later, and he and I were well on the way to everything that has happened since; a wedding, two beautiful and magical children, a home, a garden, and a restaurant. The marriage itself didn't work, but everything else has flourished, a sure sign that it was meant to be.
In the end, after expenses, we made exactly the same amount we would have had we just sold the berries to Embe Bakery. But I think we had fun doing it, and we got to eat a lot of Blackberry Apple Pie.
Blackberries are as mysterious and seductive as their colour suggests. Really a dark, dark purple, blackberries possess a strange and fragrant quality. Eaten out of hand, they taste like berries. But cooked and made into pies or crumbles, they are perfume-y, sometimes almost soapy. This was most apparent to me while eating a handmade blackberry ice cream at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. “It tastes like soap” I said, believing it must have been their failure to rinse their equipment properly. “That's the blackberries,” they explained, “they have a strange and surprising flavour”. It's like eating a piece of Thrills Gum: once someone assures you that it really is supposed to taste like that, you can revel in the exotic-ness of it.
I love this pie. Combining the blackberries with apples is like adding water to whiskey: diluting the flavours a little allows you to really taste them.
Blackberry Apple Pie
Use a deep pie plate for this recipe, it is a big pie!
10 C. Apple Slices
1 Pint Blackberries
1 C. Sugar
½ C. Flour
Juice of Half a Lemon
2 T. Butter, cut in little bits (Optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine everything but the butter in a large bowl. Make the pastry:
Food Processor Pastry (adapted from Canadian Living)
3 C. Flour
1 t. Salt
½ C. Butter
½ C. Lard
2 t. Lemon Juice
Combine the flour, salt, butter and lard in a food processor. Pulse about 25 times, until the mixture is crumbly. In a measuring cup, beat the egg and vinegar, then add enough water to measure 2/3 cup. With the machine running, pour the egg mixture in. Let the machine run for another 5-10 seconds, until mixture starts to clump, and then turn the contents out onto a lightly floured counter. Press the dough together, gathering up any straggly bits, and divide into two balls. You can chill the pastry for a half hour, making it easier to work with, or you can proceed straight to rolling out one ball into a circle 3 inches wider all around then your pie plate. Keep the surface underneath floured so it doesn't stick.
When it's the size you want, gently fold the pastry in quarters and place it in a quadrant of the pie plate. Unfold and ease the pastry into the pan, letting the extra pastry hang evenly over the edges. Tumble the filling into the pie crust (it will be very tall) and dot with the optional butter. Roll out the second ball, fold in quarters, and unfold over the pie. Fold the top and bottom crusts together all along the edge, trimming of there is too much pastry. Make sure you have a good seal so that the filling won't leak out (it will anyway, but do your best). Then you can make a decorative edge or not. Poke some holes in the top with a fork and brush the pie with beaten egg or cream and sprinkle all over with sugar (turbinado is pretty, I use Just Us! Of course).
Put the pie in the oven and slide a baking sheet onto the rack underneath. Bake the pie at 325° for about 2 hours, until the juices are bubbling thickly (most likely onto the baking sheet, that's why it's there) and the pastry is deep brown. Let it cool for at least a couple hours before devouring with ice cream.