The Best Blueberry Pie & The Secret To Perfect Pie With Frozen Berries

Little O Sneaking Some Blueberry Pie
Little O sneaking some blueberry pie with whole wheat crust.

July is blueberry month. Those tasty blue orbs that they call a super fruit are finally back. I remember when my Grandparents got me and my sister so excited to go blueberry picking in Paw Paw Michigan. We were going to stuff our faces with blueberries then head to Lake Michigan and swim and try to climb the dunes. It sounded like so much fun!! If you have never picked blueberries, well you are in for a treat, let me tell ya. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, put it something like this: “Picking blueberries isn’t like picking pumpkins,” and he’s right. We were out in the blueberry patch on the hottest flippin’ day of the year picking blueberries all afternoon and I swear we never even ended up with a quart of stinkin’ berries. See, they send you out into the part of the patch that has already been picked over by the machine and about 100 other kids being tortured by their lying “this will be so much fun” grandparents. That was the last time we did that. And by God we earned that trip to the lake.

These days my grandparents still make that trip to Paw Paw every year but they buy us a 10lb box of blueberries and we laugh remembering blueberry-picking hell. Even though I could sit down and mow down that whole box of blueberries with the boys I have to preserve some by freezing for the dead of winter when we need a little sunshine.

To Freeze Blueberries:
1. Wash berries thoroughly; you can use a fruit wash, but I just dump them into a sink full of water and white vinegar and swish them around.
2. Line cookie sheets with freezer paper waxy side up
3. Drain blueberries and spread evenly over cookie sheet. Avoid clumping. Nothing is worse than a blueberry brick.
4. Put in freezer for about two-three hours or overnight
5. Put in freezer safe containers in portions of your choosing marked with the date. Store in freezer.

I like to freeze my berries in pie and muffin recipe sizes so I don’t have to mess around measuring.

Frozen Or Fresh Blueberry Pie Recipe

The trick to a great blueberry pie with frozen berries is allowing the berries to thaw and draining the excess liquid from them before beginning. You will want to measure your berries while they are still frozen, then allow them to thaw.  The same applies for muffins and anything else you want to bake with frozen blueberries.

The Crust:
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Crisco (or lard/fat of choice)
1/3 cup cold butter
1/4 cup cold water

Place dry ingredients in food processor and slowly add water while pulsing the mixture. Pulse until dough looks crumbly, you may need to add a teeny bit more water. Dump contents of bowl onto plastic wrap or into a bowl and form into a ball. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. (I let mine chill for as long as it takes for my berries to thaw. Also I always double this crust recipe so I have extra for making pretty pie tops)

The Filling:
4 cups blueberries (if using frozen berries, thaw before use)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons tapioca powder (I use pearls, they work just fine)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg beaten for brushing crust.

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix all wet ingredients in a large bowl, add cinnamon and tapioca whisk thoroughly. Fold in thawed or fresh berries until they are coated, let rest for 10 min. Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Add top crust if you wish. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 min. Reduce heat to 375F and continue baking for 30-45 min or until filling is bubbling. Allow it to cool before digging in. It’s always a good idea to put a pan under your pie as it’s baking to catch any spill overs.

Enjoy!

Battling Colds On The Homestead For All Ages

Honey

Fresh-cut comb honey

UGH! Nearly an entire week of snotty, grumpy, coughing 10-month-olds is enough to drive the most saintly person you know batty. We’ve called the Dr. and there really wasn’t much they could do. They suggested baby Tylenol, rest, and hydration. Things we already knew. So now what? Time for momma to bring out the big guns that’s what.

The most valuable tool in our never ending booger battle is our Nosefrida. If you have a baby that doesn’t get totally ticked off by having his hard-earned boogers stolen right out of his little nostrils then you are one lucky parent. We are not as fortunate. And if we are going to make them endure the “torture” of snot removal then we are going to make sure it’s effective and we won’t have to repeat the procedure as often as we would with a bulb syringe. You can see the level of your booger sucking success gives you some real satisfaction in these hard times. AND you can pop the business end into the dishwasher!

Recipe:
1 gallon size bag of chicken bones, or a turkey or chicken carcass
Approximately 2 liters of water, enough to almost cover the bones
2 to 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (the good kind with the mother Optional)
Rosemary to taste
One onion cut into quarters (don’t worry about peeling it)
Two or three carrots (don’t worry about peeling these either, just give them a good wash)
Salt and Pepper

Let it simmer on low in crock pot for 12 to 24 hours. Strain, pour into jars. Drink warm.

Make some vapo-rub! The homemade stuff is safe for babies and grown-ups alike and its easy to whip up a quick batch while everyone is napping.

1/3 cup calendula petals
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup shea butter
1/3 cup cocoa butter
1/2 cup grated beeswax (if you are using the pelleted wax then cut the amount in half)
15-20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil

In a small sauce pan on low heat combine oils and calendula petals. Stir and let sit on low for an hour, do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 3 hours or overnight. Strain into glass bowl. Place bowl on top of small saucepan with boiling water. Add shea butter, cocoa butter, and beeswax, stir with whisk until ingredients are completely melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool add all essential oils and beat with whisk or mixer until mixture is light and fluffy. Scoop into jar(s). Apply liberally to chest and upper lips to keep those snotty noses un-chapped and happy.

HONEY! A spoonful of raw honey does wonders for a cough. (Not for those under 12 months old of course). Add it to hot tea with lemon and ginger aaaaaaaaaand maybe just a touch of whiskey for the grown-ups in the house, for the sore throat of course …

Soothing Bath Salts:In a small container with a lid combine:
2 cups Epsom salts
15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil

Shake it up and scoop or shake some into every bath.

Do you have any tried and true home remedies? Please share them! I love adding to my sickness fighting arsenal!

Pie Pumpkin Season

Pumpkins (along with apples) are like the trumpet blowers of the fall season. First you see them turning from green to orange in your garden. Then you see a bunch of those happy little gourds sitting on the hill of a farmer’s barn on your way to town. The next thing you know the leaves are turning and you are craving pumpkin spice lattes, hot cider and a slice of yummy warm fresh pie.

But unless you grow your own pie pumpkins or buy them from a local farmer that stuff you are scooping out of the can is not pumpkin. It’s actually more along the lines of a butternut squash, and companies like Libby have developed their own breeds of squash over the years to maximize yield, sugar content and consistency in their final product. It tastes good and technically the squash in the can is a cousin to pumpkin. The USDA’s definition of pumpkin is rather loose, encompassing a range of fleshy and flavorful squash including pumpkin. But they are rarely if ever used.

Kinda disappointing, right? No matter. You can make your own pumpkin puree! BUT FIRST, a note about pie pumpkins; don’t drag in that pumpkin off your porch that your children carved a face into to hack up and puree. It will be gross. So so so gross. Put it back. What you want is a small round pumpkin called a pie pumpkin. Pie pumpkins have a higher sugar content than jack-o-lantern types and they are less stringy too.

pie pumpkins
The pumpkin motherload

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Now get a big sturdy knife and cut them in half and scoop out the guts and seeds and bust off the stem. The best tool I have found for scooping pumpkin guts is a plain old ice cream scoop. (Save the seeds to roast or make pumpkin seed brittle! OR just give the seeds and skins to your chickens they will thank you for it!)

cut pumpkins
Halved pie pumpkins and tools for the job.

Flop the pumpkins, skin side up, into a 9-by-13-inch pan or onto a large cookie sheet. Then add some water to another pan and put it on the rack beneath the pumpkins. Roast the pumpkins until you can poke them with a fork and you can pull the skin off easily. Let the pumpkin cool and pull off the skin. Take the bright yellow flesh in chunks and either put them in your stand mixer and beat them into glop or use a food mill with the pumpkin screen and crank away. You can also use a blender if you have a strong one. NOTE: The food mill and blender will yield a less stringy puree than the stand mixer option. However if your main concern is pie, the stand mixer option works just fine. AND it is a heck of a lot easier to clean!

mixer
Completed pumpkin puree using stand mixer.

Take your finished pumpkin glop (as we affectionately call it), scoop it into freezer bags and stuff them in your freezer. If you have a favorite pumpkin recipe then freeze glop in the appropriate size for your recipe. I always do 4-cup portions for my homemade pumpkin pie and 2-cup portions for muffins and cookies. This is a great time to mention that you CANNOT can pureed pumpkin. Not even pressure can. The puree is too dense and can harbor bacteria that can lead to botulism. NOT worth it folks.

Pumpkin is high in Vitamin C and beta-carotene, and it is a great source of fiber! Cook with it and bake with it. You can sneak a little pumpkin into almost every recipe and give your family a little extra kick of nutrients to power them through their day.

Here is a soup recipe that I made up really quick the other night for dinner. With 8-month-old twins, I often have trouble remembering what time it is. It took a whole 30 minutes from start to finish and was done before my husband got home from work!

Hearty Pumpkin Potato Soup
(A One Pot Wonder Soup)

1 whole pie pumpkin, cooked and peeled (cut in half, stab a few times and stuff it in the microwave for 7 to 8 minutes)
2 cups chicken bone broth
2 medium potatoes, chunked
1 pound ham, chunked into bite-sized pieces
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups frozen broccoli, thawed
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Add cooked pumpkin and broth to blender, process for 30 seconds, or until a soupy puree with no chunks. You may need more broth. Set aside.
In medium-sized pot, boil potatoes until tender (able to stab them with a fork). Strain and set aside.

Add ham to same pot as potatoes and let cook a bit until slightly crisp.

Pour the pumpkin/broth mixture over ham. Add cheese, stir and let melt.

Drain any excess water from broccoli and add to soup. Salt and pepper to taste, and toss in red pepper flakes. Add potatoes back to the party.

Let soup sit on low for 1-2 minutes, then dish ‘er up and enjoy!

This is going to be a fall staple at our house from now on!