Summer Jumbleberry Pie or How San Francisco Summer Tastes to Me

by Irvin on July 14, 2010 · 12 comments

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I adore summer in San Francisco. Every year I tell myself that I am going to take full advantage of the summer by running around to all the free events, festivals, street fairs. AJ is off from teaching so he’s less stressed out from work (and lately taking photo classes) and he’s traveling to visit friends in LA or back to the Midwest to visit family. We always have grandiose plans to do SO MUCH during the summer. Host small dinner parties, host big dessert parties, get together with friends for picnics and BBQs, see movies in the park, go to the free concerts at Stern Grove Park and watch Shakespeare in the Park. And of course, I want to bake tons and tons of fruit desserts, like my Summer Jumbleberry Pie!

Sadly, we rarely get all of the stuff done that we want to – though we have ambitious plans. We just don’t have the time or the energy. But one things I love Love LOVE about summer the most, which I try to take as much advantage of as possible, regardless of how little time I have, is the summer fruit.

I LOVE summer fruit.

Cherries kick off the season in late spring early summer with their sweet plum-like flavor, fresh and bright. Stone pit fruit like peaches so sweet their honey nectar juice dribble down your chin as you bite into them and plums so luscious that all you want to do is eat one royal purple sugar sweet fruit after the next. Newcomers apriums and plouts, firm, tart and sweet all at the same time share a table with the plums as I slice them up and eat them with some local honey, yogurt and granola for breakfast.

But it’s the berries that I love the most. The precious berries. The more common blueberries and strawberries lead the pack and I love them both (I picked up some strawberries from Yerena Farms in Watsonville). But in the back of the pack, are the more expensive more fragile berries like raspberries and blackberries, the ones who’s fleeting season and even more fleeting durability means you have to eat as many of them as you can, and eat them fast. No saving them in the refrigerator for a later date, raspberries (from Rodriguez Farms in Castroville) and blackberries (from Vasquez Farms in Moss Landing) are best eaten or used the day or two after purchase!

And boysenberries, oh how I love boysenberries, with their skin pulled taught over their juices, ready to explode in your mouth – I had to stock up on those too, from Gashoff’s Berry Patch in Suisun Valley! And peeking around the corner, with an even smaller window of harvesting, is the crossbreeding cousin (sounds obscene!) berries. The ones that people in the know swoon over. Mention Olallieberries (a cross between a loganberry and a youngberry, both of which are also crossbreed berries themselves) to some and they’ll either look at you blankly or wax poetically about how they once had that one carton of olallieberries which they savored, dole them out frugally, knowing that they had to eat them before they went bad, but also knowing they wanted these berries to last as long as possible. Ollalieberries have such a short harvesting period (three weeks). When you can get them, grab them! I grabbed as many as I could reasonable store and eat from McGinnis fresh vegetables and berries in Watsonville.

This year, I discovered tayberries from Yerena Farms. A cross between a raspberry and a blackberry but more on the raspberry side (the loganberry is also a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry, but more on the blackberry side I think), the tayberry apparently is notoriously difficult to harvest, and that meant I immediately had to buy three cartons even though I had never used them before (or even tasted them before buying them). I’m a sucker for the limited edition.

What I DID know was that I had to bake two pies for the SF Giant’s County Fair’s Urban Eats contest. Well actually, to be exact, I had to bake FOUR pies for the contest. I had always wanted to submit a pie to a county fair, but most of the county fairs in San Francisco are outside of San Francisco. AND they require you, weeks (sometimes months) in advance, to figure out what you want to submit. How am I to know what sort of pie I’m going to want to make that far in advance? I’m more of a spontaneous bake at the drop of a dime sort of pie maker than a plan ahead sort of baker.

Also, I’m too lazy to drive to Sacramento to submit a pie to the state fair. It’s just too much work.

But I submitted two entries to the San Francisco contest. I had to make two pies for each entry (one for judging, one for display) and the only requirement was to make a pie that highlighted local produce. Not a problem, I LOVE using local produce. Had I still lived in the the Midwest it might have been a different story, but in San Francisco, our local produce is awesome.

Of the two pies that I was submitting the one I was most excited about making was my Summer Jumbleberry pie – because in my mind it’s the one that says summer fruit the most. Summer Jumbleberry pie is basically a pie of mixed berries. It allowed me to bake spontaneously whatever berries I found at the farmer’s market, thus giving me some leeway in what the final product ended up being.

AJ had actually asked me if I wanted to bake a couple of test pies before submitting the pie to the contest. I scoffed at this idea. Did he not realize that I inherently am lazy about this sort of thing? And doesn’t he know me well enough to know that I am not a plan ahead type of baker?

And so, the Saturday before the contest (it was held on Sunday) I went to the Farmer’s Market and looked to see what berries they had. Boysenberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, olallieberries, tayberries, I bought with abandon. They were all going into my jumbleberry pie (if I didn’t eat them beforehand).

That said, I also decided to go the extra step and get local ingredients for my crust. Local butter is easy to find (most dairy is local actually), I just made sure to get the organic stuff from Clover Stornetta Farms in Petaluma, and I decided to go with local lard too from Range Brothers in Fairfield (who were recently acquired by Prather’s Ranch Meat Company) for some of the crust (I had never actually made a lard crust before, but everyone always raves about using lard so I figure why not try it). Harder to find was local wheat, but I was able to snag the last couple of pounds of local whole wheat as well from Eatwell Farms.

I also chatted up some other vendors there and picked up some local cornmeal from Ridgecut Gristmills, Inc. (AJ mentioned to her how I was looking at a book on growing my own wheat in the backyard and she looked at me like I was crazy and said it was best I let the professionals do that, in which AJ agreed), as well as local rhubarb from Happy Quail Farms (apparently California rhubarb is green not red – which didn’t stop me from picking through the stuff to find the most red stalks I could find. That said, the vendor also told me that he once had a French chef come running up to him and exclaim to him “Now zat is vhat rhubarb is suppose to ve! Not ze red stuff! Green!” in an outrageous French accent. Apparently French rhubarb is green as well). I needed the rhubarb for my other pie.

And that night, I baked the pies. I adapted my previous jumbleberry pie recipe, which I had never been super happy with (the filling was always too runny) and just hoped that it turned out ok. And I adapted my crust recipe to work with the lard, and the whole wheat crust. It was then, I realized the ridiculousness of not testing out a recipe before submitting it. But too late now!

Side note: I filmed a 6 minute video of me baking this very pie (well an older recipe variation) about a year ago as a demo tape for a friend of a friend. They were looking for someone to help host a cooking/baking section of a magazine style TV show and she wanted to see what I looked like on tape. Obviously I didn’t get the part, but it was fun to make. If anyone is in need of baker/pastry chef for a television show, drop me a line! I’m read for my close up.

I dropped off my four pies to the contest Sunday morning and AJ and I went out to brunch. There were ten pies that were registered for judging. I wasn’t sure how mine would rank with them, as I only saw two other pies when I was dropping off mine.

We came back after brunch to see the results. Turns out those two other pies were the only pies that people had dropped off! So out of the four pies in the contest, mine were two of them.

The results were in. My Summer Jumbleberry pie won a blue ribbon! Whoo hoo! It didn’t come in first place however, but I had no regrets. The overall first place winner for the first annual Urban Eats contest was my other pie – a strawberry rhubarb lemon chess pie! In truth, I had a 50% chance of winning the contest I guess, as it was my two pies against two other pies. But I’ll take what I can get!

The Urban Eats part of the SF Giants’ County Fair is sponsored by CUESA and is pretty awesome by the way. Not only were they judging the pie contest, but also local picnic baskets, local honey, and local eggs. They had information booths for non-profits including awesome organizations like La Cocina which help people start up their own food business by providing lower rate commercial kitchens. AJ and I also decided to participate in a cherry pit spitting contest (neither of us won that one). Next year, everyone submit their pies to the contest as CUESA and Urban Eats is awesome!

In the meanwhile, in a bit of serendipity, You Want Pies With That? decided that their July theme (chosen by Erin over at Milk & Honey) was “Summer Fruit” pies. How could I not submit this pie?

So run out and buy as many berries as you can and make this pie. It may not have gotten first place in the contest, but in my mind, a slice of it tastes like summer.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

branny July 14, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Way to win the contest!


Amy of Sing For Your Supper July 14, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Awesome!! This SO looks like an award-winning pie!!! You've got my vote! 🙂


Sara July 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Congrats on the 1st place on your other pie and the blue ribbon on this one! It definitely looks fantastic!! 🙂


Jeanne July 14, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I fell into the tayberry trap as well – bought the only container for sale at my farmers market! And they were so worth it! Your pie definitely looks worthy of the blue ribbon.


Carolyn Jung July 15, 2010 at 4:48 pm

As a native San Franciscan, I concur that Indian summer in San Francisco is the best. While the rest of the country swelters or is already cooling off toward fall, September-October in San Francisco is the perfect temperature to enjoy the lovely outdoors. And don't beat yourself up for not getting to all the summer events in the city. There's so many that nobody could ever make it to all of them without staying up 24/7. 😉


suz July 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Oh San Francisco, how I miss the farmer's markets there! LA's not too bad when it comes to summer fruits though. Beautiful pie; congrats on the ribbons!


themilkmanswife July 15, 2010 at 10:14 pm

A blue ribbon! Yay! Way to go! Gorgeous pie. 🙂


Jess--Sugar High July 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Delicious looking pie!


anneliesz July 17, 2010 at 6:13 am

The pie looks delish and I completely agree about summers in San Francisco. We walked to a free concert in the park a few weekends ago and then to a cookout the following weekend in GG park. So beautiful. Summer in SF sometimes tastes like fog… and other times like stone fruit and sun-ripened berries. Love it! 🙂


Tara Barker July 20, 2010 at 3:19 am

I have been known to scoop up lots of specialty produce just "because it was there" with no thought as to how I'll use it – I'd definitely do it with new-to-me berries! The pie looks delicious, and how did you like working with lard? It regular lard, not leaf lard, right? Everyone has been raving about crusts made with leaf lard, but I can't find any near me. 🙁 Big congrats on your win!


Mr. Jackhonky July 20, 2010 at 5:39 am

@Branny, Sara, themilkmanswife, & Jess–Sugar High. Yay! Thanks! I was super pleased that I won!

@Amy. Thanks for the vote. Isn't next month's theme the AWESOMEST?!?! I can't wait to figure out what to make.

@Jeanne. Are tayberries awesome? I'm so in love with them. The season is totally fleeting so I'm using them as much as I can…

@Carolyn Jung & Annelisz Oh man. Summer in SF. So much to do. So little time to do it. This weekend is INSANE the amount of stuff I want to do, but I'm competing in a pie contest so I'm stuck inside baking and hoping to win…

@Suz. LA has great farmer's markets too. But I haven't been to one that beats the SF Ferry Building one.

@Tara. It was leaf lard not regular lard. I steer away from the regular lard you can get at the grocery store, it tend to be hydrogenated and made from inferior parts of the pig.

The leaf lard was AWESOME. I had never used it before but I'm definitely using it in the future (unless I have vegetarians who will be eating it, in which case I won't be…). If you are friends with a butcher or get your meat from a farm, you can probably order it. Or you can order it online here (though you have to order a fairly large amount). It's TOTALLY worth it.


Tara Barker July 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm

You know, I called my local natural food co-op a while back to see if they could get leaf lard for me (they have relationships with all the area farmers/butchers) and they searched for a while and came back with a big NO. I was so disappointed! And I've been stalking my farmer's market, but haven't seen any there, either. Maybe ordering it online is the way to go, if I can find someone to split the order with me. I really want to see what everyone's all excited about!


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