by Sarah Torrance
After moving to Washington, DC three years ago, I made a fantastic discovery. Farms across Maryland open their doors to Washingtonians desperate for grass, trees and fresh air to come and pick their produce. Personally, I think this is the most genius idea that any farmer ever came up with: people actually paying the farmer to pick his/her crop and being SUPER excited about it.
My friend Cynthia introduced me to Butler’s Orchard and has been my berry picking buddy ever since. We prefer to go for blackberries only, even though Butler’s Orchard allows you to pick strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Blackberries are basically the easiest berry to pick since you are not required to reach too high or bend too low to fill your bucket.
I set a personal record this year picking 5.2 lbs of berries in just under 40 minutes not including all the berries I ate while I was picking. Once the picking is done and the berries are washed, Cynthia and I are always met with the dilemma of what to do with the massive amount of berries we have picked. Cynthia is considerably more ambitious then I and makes jars upon jars of blackberry preserve every year. I prefer to make blackberry pies, because I truly believe they are the easiest thing in the world to make and everyone and their mother thinks that you are an amazing pastry chef after making just one pie, once a year.
After you have finished picking your berries or purchasing them for an astronomic mark-up, you just need two additional ingredients for the filling: white sugar and all-purpose flour.
4 cups fresh blackberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar and flour. Smash everything together until you have a chunky, syrupy mix. Spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle with sugar.
I had a little fun with attempting to cut out heart shapes in the top crust of one pie (which is harder than it sounds). I have to say that was my favorite part of the whole activity.
Bake at 425 degree F for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees F, and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.
I bought store bought pie crusts for the bottom half but made my own pie crust for the top.
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
3 tablespoons ice water
Mix flour and salt in mixing bowl. Add shortening into the flour, until mixture resembles the texture of tiny peas.
Once the mixture is the right texture, add the ice water and mix with a fork. Quickly gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Remove dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable.
Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough disk on a lightly floured surface from the center out in each direction, forming a 12-inch circle.
Whether you make the crust yourself or buy the Betty Crocker version that just requires you to add water, everyone will think that you are the best chef ever…at the very least you will be very impressed with yourself.