On an unusually cool June morning, I walked out into the heart of the southeast pasture to pick wild blackberries. Inspired by Bruce Nelson’s book, Alone in the Fortress of Bears (he picked and ate a LOT of berries during his 70-day solo trip on Admiralty Island in Alaska), I was curious to see what kind of bounty was out there in our own fields. As I picked, I imagined myself as a calorie-focused bear, greedily muscling my way through the prickly bushes with the goal of fattening up for a long winter snooze. In a little over an hour’s worth of work I had harvested two and a quarter pounds of tart fruit. The fingers of my picking hand were dyed a satisfying reddish-purple.
I’ve always thought of berries as a deep summer crop – maybe because I grew up in Zone 5b NE Ohio – but here in the more moderate Zone 7 Oklahoma, their high season is mid- to late spring. Oddly, we don’t seem to have much competition for the fruit from opossums, raccoons, birds or other opportunistic beasts of the wild; there are always plenty of ripe berries. On second thought, I take it back. There are two wild beasts that love these berries: Ike and Willa. They munch on them, pulling them off with delicate precision with their front teeth, whenever we walk by the bushes.
On this bright morning, the berry bushes were festooned with silken spider webs and spangled with water droplets from last night’s brief rain. The long grass underneath and around the bushes rustled and moved from time to time with unknown creatures moving away from my feet. I quickly recognized that perfectly ripe berries very often had a fly or a beetle perched on them. The nose knows.
With each berry plucked and as my container slowly filled, I wanted one more and another and another. There was always another briar bush just “over there,” beckoning me with the promise of dark purple berries glistening in the morning sun.
Wild berries exact their price. There is no free lunch, even when foraging on one’s own land. The hazards are, of course, getting one’s blood drawn by the mini harpoons that jut from both branch and leaf. I looked later at my pant legs and there were dozens of tiny thorns caught into the fabric. There are the circling mosquitoes and the stubbornly persistent deer flies. I know that I will find a tick or three on some difficult-to-reach part of my anatomy. It gets hot under the morning sun, especially when wearing knee-high waders and a long-sleeved shirt. But the birdsong, a slight breeze, ample time for thoughts both inane and potentially brilliant, and the knowledge that I’m free from prying eyes by 160 acres of pasture surrounding me, makes for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
The hardest part of berry-picking comes when deciding how to use the sweet windfall. Will it be Jam, muffins, cobbler, smoothies, syrup…or pie? Summer means fruit pie to me, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make one with fruit picked off of our own land.
What’s worth stained fingers and a few scratches? A beautiful homemade pie filled with juicy, handpicked wild berries! This easy recipe works with both wild berries and their domesticated cousins. Bonus, if you use the stevia liquid, it’s low in sugar.
- Double-crust pastry (I slightly modify Isa’s olive oil recipe)
- 1 small apple, cored with skin on, shredded
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4–1/3 cup cornstarch, depending on the juiciness of the berries
- 3 Tbsp. coconut sugar
- 2 Tbsp. NuNaturals Vanilla Syrup (or use about 3/4 cane sugar)
- 4 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
- sprinkle of cinnamon
- sprinkle of cane sugar
Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Have your unbaked pastry ready to go, one half pressed into a 9-inch pie pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons coconut sugar (or the 3/4 cup sugar if going that route). Set aside.
In a large bowl, add the shredded apple, lemon juice, stevia syrup and blackberries and gently stir. Sprinkle the cornstarch mixture over top and gently stir so that the cornstarch and sugar are evenly distributed.
Pour the berry mixture into the unbaked pie shell and spread the berries evenly. Sprinkle a little cinnamon over the berries. Top with the other half of the pastry, press and crimp the edges to seal. Sprinkle some cane sugar over the pastry. Prick the top with the tines of a fork to allow steam to escape.
Place the pie on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow of juice) and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking for another 45-50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is firm and browned. Let cool before slicing and serving.
I added an apple for additional natural sweetness and for the pectin content. Pectin not only provides fiber, it helps the filling thicken. Feel free to omit the apple, if preferred.
Vary the amount of cornstarch depending on how juicy your berries are. Same for sweetness – if your berries are extra tart, increase the sugar content.
Keywords: pie, dessert, berries, summer, desserts, pie crust, baking, blackberries
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