Of course not! That's the beauty of living in the mountains--we still have wild blueberries growing all over the slopes!
A couple weeks ago, we took our kids up to a wonderful little spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway called Graveyard Fields. It's a popular stop for casual (kid friendly) hiking and berry picking. Acres of wild blueberry varieties grow in nearly every direction. So when one of my oldest, dearest friends came to visit last week with her family, we headed up the parkway again for more blueberries!
After my past blueberry picking post, I had several emails asking where to stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's a tricky question. The parkway runs 469 miles through the Appalachians and was started as a employment program after the Great Depression. It took over 25 years to complete and did, in fact, employ thousands of people. Several friends I have met here in Asheville, tell stories of their grandparents housing parkway workers or opening businesses to serve the new crowds coming through. Although there are many fantastic places to stop, my personal favorites (other than Graveyard Fields) within an hour of town are: Crabtree Falls, Mount Mitchell, and Craggy Gardens. For more info visit Romantic Asheville or the official Blue Ridge Parkway site.
With bundles of berries, we headed home to bake the most classic berry dessert I can think of, PIE! Who doesn't like pie? Really, can you imagine someone NOT enjoying flaky buttery layers of crust and juicy berry filing?
It is my opinion that when berry pies are made, they should be eaten at every meal until gone. Pie for breakfast? Yes. Pie for lunch? Definitely. Pie for an afternoon snack or dinner? Without a doubt! In fact, we sent our friends out for a date and kept all the kiddos at home. Then we served the little guys fresh blueberry pie for dinner...with ice cream! Don't tell on me!
If yours berries have faded away in hotter climates, don't fear! The great secret of berry pies is that they can be made with frozen berries all year long. Since berries are generally packaged at the height of the season, berry pies made with frozen berries are debatably just as good! No one has to know your berries weren't freshly picked!
This particular blueberry pie is a classic rendition. I like to keep such nostalgic dishes fairly straight forward. The only artist license I took was with the crust.
I tweaked my favorite pie crust recipe by incorporating ground almonds and amaretto! The almonds create a slightly more brittle, but exquisitely flaky crust and the amaretto deepens the sweet, nutty flavor. It was a superb crust, if I do say so myself!
A couple more things~ I like to start the baking process on a lower oven rack to ensure the crust bakes below all that oozing berry goodness! Usually 15-20 will do the trick, then I move it up so the crust is crisp, but not dark on the bottom! I also like to cut shapes out of dough for a decorative top. It's quicker and less frustrating than meticulously weaving a basket top!
Blueberry Pie with Sweet Almond Crust
½ cup ground raw almonds
2 ½ all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tb. sugar
12 Tb. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
7 Tb. shortening, chilled and cut into cubes
2 Tb. amaretto
2-3 Tb. cold milk
6 cups blueberries
½ cup flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 Tb. orange juice
2 Tb. butter, cut into cubes
Ground the almonds in the food processor until fine.
Add the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the COLD butter and shortening cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles peas.
Add the amaretto and 1 tablespoon of cold milk. Pulse again until the dough comes together. Add another 1-2 tablespoons of milk if needed. Dump the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Separate into two equal pieces and flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the blueberries with the following 5 ingredients and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Move to racks to a lower and middle position.
Flour a work surface and roll out one disk of dough in a 12 inch circle. Fold the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it to a 9 inch pie pan. Repair any cracks.
Crimp or pinch the edges.
Roll out the second disk of dough and cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter.
Pour the berry filling into the pie crust and top with 2 tablespoons of butter cubes. Arrange the dough shapes over the filling. Whisk an egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the pie crust.
Place the pie on the lower rack and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 degrees F, and move the pie up to the middle rack. Bake another 35-45 minutes—until the crust is golden brown and the blueberry filling in bubbling. If the pie crust browns too quickly, cover it with foil.
Once out of the oven, resist the urge to cut into the pie and have a slice. The pie needs to cool to room temperature for the filling to thicken up! It usually takes about 2 hours!
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