First the history. My grandmother was an amazing cook, but she never thought of herself as much of a baker. When my parents married, my mother had no experience in the kitchen so she learned how to cook from her mother-in-law (my grandmother who was the amazing cook). My mom must have been a good student because as time went on, she became quite an amazing cook herself. However, the title of “best pie maker” still belonged to my grandmother (as my father so kindly put it when my mother made her first blueberry pie and was told it wasn’t as good as his mother’s). My mother stopped making pies for a few years, but eventually moved beyond the comment and made pies again. We all loved them.
What some may not realize is that there are several components to making a good (or great) pie. There is the crust, the filling, and according to my grandmother, the pie plate itself. This was news to me until I heard this story. In the early 1980s, my mom was given the gift of a pie plate from a friend of hers. This plate came from Wildfires Potters in Sisters, Oregon. What made it unique is that it was made with the ashes from Mount St. Helens. Each plate was personalized, and my mother’s read: Ginny’s Gourmet Pies. My mother loved the plate so much that she had one made for my grandmother in 1982. My grandmother’s pie plate reads: Millie’s Gourmet Pies. My grandmother always said that these pie plates made the best pies and she felt the volcano ashes had something to do with that.
At some point, and I’m not sure when, my mother’s plate broke. When my grandmother passed in 1993, my mother inherited her pie plate. A couple of years ago, that plate was passed on to me. I believe it was always intended for me to have upon my grandmother’s passing and as a traditionalist at heart, for me it is more than just a pie plate. (Sadly, Wildfires Potters is no longer in business which means I need to be very careful with this pie plate.) I made the Mixed Berry Pie for the July 4th holiday and I think my grandmother would have been proud. I’m also not as good of a baker as I am a cook, but I think she would have liked this pie.
Now for the other components of a good (or great) pie: the crust and the filling. Anyone who reads what I write about food knows that I am an “adapter.” I cook the way I knit, which means that the recipe (or pattern) is merely a guideline. For this pie I started with a recipe from Fine Cooking for a Bumbleberry Pie. As my daughter and I read through it and realized that the filling was a gelled filling we decided together that just wasn’t going to work for us. So, I used the recipe for the shortbread crust (although I would omit the salt next time) and then made up my own recipe (based on past experience) for a mixed berry filling. I decided to include ground cinnamon in the berry filling mixture since it was so good on berries when I tried it before. Then I went from memory, scary I know, for the crumb topping my grandmother used to make for her pies. In the end, this pie was not only good enough for dessert, but breakfast the next morning!
Note: these measurements are non-standard and reflect what was on my counter or in my refrigerator! This is how I operate in my kitchen and while I have certainly made mistakes with recipes in the past, this one was mistake free and very tasty!
Tracy’s Mixed Berry Pie
For the pie:
1 recipe for Shortbread pie crust
1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries
3 pints blackberries
1 1/2 pints strawberries
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For crumb topping:
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 stick of cold butter cut into pieces.
Place all topping ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined (about 12 times). Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make pie crust and set aside in the refrigerator.
Rinse fruit and cut tops off strawberries. Cut strawberries into quarters or eighths so they are closer to the size of the other berries.
Place fruit in a bowl and add sugar, lemon juice, corn starch, and cinnamon. Mix together and let sit for 15-20 minutes.
While fruit is resting remove pie crust from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out dough to the size of your pie plate. (Be careful here- the dough is very sticky). Place dough in pie plate and trip edges.
Add fruit mixture. Add crumb topping to top. (I always and only make a pie with a crumb topping- I’ve never been enough of a fan of a pie crust to put it on top too)
Bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
I served this with home made whipped cream, but vanilla ice cream works well too.
This series was inspired by the gift of a large amount of cinnamon my mother-in-law brought me from Ecuador. It includes recipes from Verona chefs and chefs with Verona connections. You can follow this series and all of my cooking adventures on Twitter: @TracyCooksIt