Courtesy Tracy Benjamin
This morning, at the end of my work on community-supported agriculture farm, I picked a precious half-pint of raspberries. It took not only a little searching, but also avoiding the bees, which love the fragile, sweet berries nearly as much as I do. Over the weekend, I’ll gather some wild briar berries, those little jewels ripening along the roads of my neighborhood that have so many different names. I’ll add some local blueberries, too, to make a mixed berry birthday pie for a friend.
In their season, none of these berries need preparation, so I’ll use an easy pie recipe that combines lightly cooked and thickened berries with more uncooked ones. Because the berries are barely cooked, the filling tastes fresh and true to the fruit. The mix is then poured into a baked pie crust so in total, the oven isn’t on long.
This pie-making technique also works well with very ripe peaches and peach-berry combinations. Choose the firmest fruit for the cooked part and the softest fruit for the uncooked part. I like to keep the sugar to a minimum—just enough to enhance and set the berries—and no spices are necessary, unless you want to add a bit of ginger to peaches. I like to use fruit liqueur for part of the cooking liquid, such as cassis for berries or Grand Marnier for peaches, but all water is fine, too, or use apricot, peach or guava nectars instead of the water.
Of course you can gild the lily of this pie by topping it with cut-out crust shapes, vanilla or peach ice cream ice cream or heavy cream whipped with a little vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. But it’s perfectly delicious all by itself or, like the one I’ll be making for my friend, with a few birthday candles on top.
Yield: 6-8 servings
- One 8- to 9-inch fully baked pie crust (Use your favorite pie crust recipe, or if rushed for time, buy one.)
- 4 cups fresh berries (any kind); ripe, peeled peaches; or a combination of both
- 3 T. cornstarch
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup fruit liqueur, such as cassis or Grand Marnier
- 1½ tsp. lemon juice
- 1 T. butter
In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, water and liqueur. Whisk with fork until smooth. Add 1½ to 2 cups berries, and mash. Cook over low heat until smooth and thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and add lemon juice and butter. Add remaining berries or peaches. You can mash some more if you like, or leave chunky.
Chill filling slightly and pour into baked pie crust. Chill well before serving.