I was born in a small town in rural southern British Columbia. We had 10 acres of land and to a small child, it was enormous; a wondrous, magical place full of nature and adventure. The property sported a small orchard of beautifully twisted and gnarled apple trees and if you have seen an apple tree you may understand how magical they appear.
They have a particular grayish bark that makes them look ancient and wise and during the spring they burst with soft pink blossoms that later in the summer and fall become perfect fruit. Many a sunny summer day was spent amongst those ancient beauties, climbing, conversing with bees and picking apples, then watching my mother’s hands peel them, slice and spice them, and bake them into perfect pies in our farmhouse’s wood burning oven.
Now I live a long way away from that pastoral life, I’m decades beyond those hazy summer apple-picking days. I can easily stop by a grocery store or bakery and buy a pie, and it would be good, it might even be great. It might remind me vaguely that I once upon a time plucked sun-warmed apples in the shade of hundred year old trees. Or maybe not. Despite time and distance, nostalgia is a potent force and despite it being a seemingly insignificant goal to pick apples and make a pie from them, the action, for me, was soul satisfying. Sometimes simple things can transport us, take us back in time and place and let us re-live a moment, or re-connect with someplace or some one we have lost or moved on from.
Apple Blueberry Pie
makes 1 lattice topped 10″ pie
For the filling:
10 medium cooking apples (golden delicious are ideal)
1 pint of blueberries
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp flour
1 Cup brown sugar
For the pastry:
3 cups of flour
1-1/2 C cold butter
pinch of salt
ice water as needed
Before you start making the filling, measure out your flour and butter. Place them in the bowl you will be making your pastry in along with your pastry cutter (if using) in the freezer. Also put into the freezer: a measuring cup of water and a spoon. Why? Because heat is the enemy of pastry; until it’s in the oven. Working with cold implements and ingredients will help ensure you have successful pastry.
Begin by peeling, coring and slicing all the apples. Add the sugar and stir well, coating the damp apple slices with the sugar. This will cause them to macerate slightly and the apples will become juicier and the sugar will coat them evenly. Add the flour and toss to combine. Add the blueberries and gently stir them in; try not to burst the berries. Set aside.
Pull your pastry ingredients from the freezer. Cut the butter into thin slices and drop them atop the flour. If you are using a pastry cutter go ahead and cut the butter into the flour until each bit of butter is about the size of a blueberry.
If you’re mixing the flour and butter by hand, start by washing your hands and rinsing in very cold water until they are very cold. Dry them well and get to pinching your butter. You want to work the flour into the butter by pinching and flattening the butter between your thumb and forefinger. This will make flakes of butter vs blueberry sized bits, which is totally okay, just work fast and don’t let things warm up.
Once the butter is in bits, work in the ice water a bit at a time. There is no measurement here for the water, very much on purpose. How much water you need will depend on the relative humidity and it’s better to dribble it in a tablespoon at a time than to dump in too much. Add the water slowly, gently and swiftly working the flour and butter together until you have a slightly sticky, mostly cohesive dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and push it together into a smooth ball and flatten it into a disk. Chill, wrapped tightly, for at least 30 minutes.
When your dough is chilled and rested, unwrap it and cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Using a rolling pin, roll the larger piece of dough out to about a 14″ circle. This is based on a deep 10″ pie plate. If you are using a smaller or more shallow pie plate, adjust with consideration of the pastry being able to cover the bottom, sides and over hang the edges of the pie plate.
Once your circle of pastry is rolled, lay it in the pie plate and dump in your filling. Don’t worry if it is a tall mound and seems like too much, it will cook down nicely. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into strips. Weave the strips as you lay them over the fruit making a basket weave or lattice design. Tuck the ends of the lattice and the extra pastry overhanging the pie plate under itself to make a thick edge. Crimp with your fingers or press with a fork. Sprinkle the pastry with sugar if you like an extra crunch.
Bake the pie immediately in a 400 degree oven. It will take about an hour. It is ready when the pastry is golden and the filling is jammy and bubbling. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.