Picking blackberries is not for the impatient or easily deterred. Our blackberry patch has grown into a monstrous tangle of canes, 10 foot stalks that shoot up then topple to the ground in early summer, heavy with juicy black fruit. This year in particular, the berries are gorgeous – fat and sweet from just the right combination of rain and sun. The berries on the edges of the patch are easy to get to – as long as you refrain from grabbing the canes you can pick plenty of berries scratch-free. But the berries that beckon from the center of the patch are too numerous to waste, so we go after them despite the maze of thorns between us and them. As we cut paths into the center of the bramble and carefully weave our way in, our focus increases, and I find myself thinking only two things. Get the berries. Don’t touch the thorns. At the peak of the season, it can take the two of us over an hour to fully pick the patch, but there’s something I love about the concentration and straightforwardness of the task, moving slowly and precisely through the canes. And the reward – buckets of delicious berries – is always worth the inevitable scrapes and mosquito bites.
Our patch is generous: so far this year we’ve picked 11 pounds of fruit, and I have a feeling we’ll have a last, small batch to pick tomorrow. Like cherries, my favorite way to consume blackberries is fresh, preferably just-picked, when they’re still firm and warm from the sun. But when you have 11 pounds of berries, there’s plenty of room to experiment with recipes and still be able to eat your fill of fresh fruit. This summer I’ve made blackberry clafoutis, blackberry crumble, and a big batch of blackberry jam, all of which were good, but my favorite by a mile was this pie, an intense mix of blackberries, wild Maine blueberries, cherries, and maple syrup.
I love pie – in my book, it’s far superior to cake – and I have a particular weakness for berry pies. Juicy and summery, the berries break down to completely fill the space between the crusts, with no gaps like apple pies tend to have. And because I like berry pie so much, I have high standards for it, so I thought long and hard about exactly how to achieve the pie I was envisioning. I started with blackberry-maple, but thought the blackberries needed extra dimension, so cherries and blueberries got added to the mix. The ratio of cornstarch to fruit is just enough to have the pie hold it’s shape, but not so much that it loses its juiciness. And the crust utilizes a little extra butter and my new favorite pastry method, frozen butter grating, for extra flakiness. To top it all off (quite literally), I used a cute little leaf cookie cutter to decorate the top and make it all foresty and picturesque. Basically, I love this pie. I love it so much that I ate five slices in three days, bookending my Monday and Tuesday with pie: a slice with my morning latte, and a slice after dinner with ice cream. It’s probably good that there’s only a short window during which we get enough berries to make pie. Otherwise, I would be doing a lot more running.
Maple Mixed Berry Pie
- 2 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 TBS sugar
- 12 TBS salted butter, frozen
- 6-8 TBS ice water
- 1 1/2 c. wild Maine blueberries
- 2 c. blackberries
- 2 c. pitted sweet cherries, torn in half
- 3/4 c. maple syrup
- 4 TBS cornstarch
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 TBS lemon juice
- Whisk together flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Remove butter from the freezer and grate over the large holes on a box grater, working quickly to keep the butter from melting. Add the cold grated butter to the flour and toss with your fingers to coat the butter with flour. Add ice water to the mixture 1 TBS at a time, using a fork to swirl the ice water through the flour after each addition. Add ice water until the dough just comes together when pressed with your fingers. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Mix the blueberries, blackberries, and cherries together in a large bowl. Pour half of the fruit into a large saucepan, and add the maple syrup to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until berries have broken down and released their juices, and liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cinnamon. Whisk the lemon juice into the cornstarch. If it is still very thick, add a few tablespoons of the juices from the room temperature berries, whisking until you have a pourable mixture. At this stage, scrape the cornstarch mixture into the bowl with the chilled fruit and stir to combine, then add the cooked fruit and stir until thoroughly mixed. Set the filling aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the pie dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough out into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully lift and place into a pie plate, pressing dough gently down onto bottom. Trim the edges, leaving about 1/4 inch of overhang. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork to allow air to vent, then bake the crust for 10 minutes in the oven, until just golden. Remove from the oven and add the prepared filling, then return the pie to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, roll out the remaining piece of dough and use a cookie cutter to cut out a number of small shapes. After the pie has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and cover the surface of the pie with overlapping pieces of the dough shapes (I used small leaves). Return the pie to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the top crust is golden brown, another 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream.