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!
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.
Whole Wheat Lard Pie Crust
Adapted from More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) by the Editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups of pastry flour (see note)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp white sugar
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 cup of cold lard cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup of cold vodka
1/4 cup of cold ice water
1. Put the pastry flour, salt, sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined (a couple of 1 second bursts). Add the butter and lard to the processor and pulse until a dough starts to collect in chunks. About 15 seconds or so. You want the dough to look chunky like cottage cheese and covered in flour
2. Scrape up the dough and evenly distribute the chunks in the processor and add the whole wheat flour. Pulse until the dough starts to form, about 4 to 6 pulses.
3. Empty into a large bowl and sprinkle both the vodka and the water over the dough. It seems like a lot of liquid, but don’t worry it’s suppose to be that way. With a large spatula, “fold” the dough into the liquid until it is all incorporated. The resulting dough will be sticky and tacky. Divide the dough in half and flatten into disks and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
Note 1. For everyone who always complains about how difficult it is to make pies and pie crust, this recipe is for you. The vodka and the water make the dough incredibly easy to roll out and use, and you’ll get a crazy tender and flaky crust from it. The vodka has alcohol that inhibits the gluten from forming. It evaporates when you bake it, but because it has moisture, you’ll find the pie dough is incredibly easy to work with and drapes like a dream. The phrase “easy as pie” finally makes sense.
Note 2. Pastry flour is flour that has less gluten in it than regular all purpose but more gluten than cake flour. If you don’t have it, you can fake it by using 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour minus 1 tablespoon. Add a tablespoon of cornstarch. Or just skip this and use all purpose flour in a 1 to 1 substitution.
To make the Pie
2 cups strawberries, cleaned hulled and sliced or quartered
2 cups raspberries, washed and dried (see note)
1 cup blackberries, washed and dried
1 cup olallieberries, washed and dried
1 cup tayberries, washed and dried
1 cup boysenberries, washed and dried
total 8 cups of mixed summer berries (see note)
1/3 cup arrowroot flour (see note)
1 1/2 cup white sugar plus more to sprinkle on top
zest from 3 lemons
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into bits
1 egg white beaten until frothy
1 egg yolk plus 1 Tbsp water beaten together until slightly frothy for egg yolk wash
plus the pie crust from the above recipe
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F
2. Roll out the pie dough with a generous amount of flour (remember the dough will be sticky. Don’t be afraid of using more flour as you need it) to about a 12″ disk and fit it into a 9” deep dish pie pan. Trim the edges leaving about a 1/2″ overhang.
3. Brush the bottom and sides of the pie dough with the beaten egg white. This will help the crust from getting soggy.
4. Combine berries, arrowroot flour, white sugar, zest from lemons and spices in a large bowl. Toss together gently with a large spatula.
5. Pour mixture into prepared pie dough pan. Dot the filling with the unsalted butter chunks
6. Roll out the second disk of pie dough to about a 12″ square. Cut the disk into 14 even strips (if you want to get fancy or are trying to win a county fair contest, run out and buy a fluted pastry wheel and use that. Otherwise just use a pizza wheel or a plain old knife).
7. Place the longest strip of pie crust over the filling in the center and turn the pie 90˚ and place the second longest strip perpendicular to that in the center of the pie. You should have an “X” on the pie. Turn another 90˚ and place the third and fourth strips of dough on the right and left of the center strip. Now turn another 90˚ and place two more strips of dough, lifting up the strips to “weave” the strips above and below the placed strips. Continue until you have topped the entire pie, saving the short pastry strips for the ends of the pie top.
Conversely you can just skip the weaving and lay the strips on top of each other. Trust me, no one will really notice and everyone will just ooh and ahh over the fact that you made a pie from scratch.
8. Crimp the ends of the pie decoratively with your fingers, tucking the ends of the top pie strips inside the ends. Brush top of the pie with the egg yolk wash and sprinkle the top with sugar.
9. Bake the pie on a large baking sheet (to catch any drippings) for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 375˚ F and bake for 35 to 45 minutes more, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling and thick. Cool to room temperature before serving.
Note 1. When washing the berries, make sure they are dry before using them in the pie filling. Berries give off a LOT of liquid, so you want to minimize the liquid you are putting in the filling. You don’t want to be serving jumbleberry soup.
First, gently place the berries into a colander and turn on your faucet. Don’t run the berries under the water directly, but instead, use your hand to spray the water over and around the berries, shaking the colander ever so slightly as you do it. This should keep the berries intact. Fast running water will destroy the berries.
Second, line a large baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and gently pour the wet berries onto the sheet. Shake gently to even distribute the berries and to let the water get soaked up by the paper towels. You should always wash the berries right before use as the water will make the berries go bad faster if washed and then stored. However, you can store the berries on the paper towel lined baking sheet in the refrigerator (before washing) and they will keep longer than they normally would in the containter they came in (apparently this is how the professionals keep their berries. That said, I shall assume the professionals also have very large refrigerators with space to keep large sheets of berries as I could barely fit anything into my refrigerator).
Note 2. You can use any mix of berries that you want. The original recipe called for blueberries and red currants. This is also a great way to use up berries that have been sitting in your fridge and are on the brink of going bad. Just make sure the volume of the berries sum up to 8 cups.
Note 3. I like to use arrowroot flour as my thickener as it thickens without clouding up the fruit or muddying the flavor. Tapioca flour is also great as a thickener (substitute 1 to 1) but sometimes it imparts a grainy texture. If you don’t have arrowroot or tapioca (and I highly suggest you get some of each) you can substitute cornstarch (substitute 1 to 1) but expect your filling to look a little cloudy. If you must, you can also substitute flour (use twice as much flour as arrowroot) but the muddiness will be even worse.