Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blueberry Picking and Our Recipe For Mini Blueberry Tarts

In our second installment of our summer series:
 "Field Trip" we're off to pick blueberries

Here's our "Field Trip!" post.  It's filled with fun notes about our blueberry picking and a great recipe for "Blueberry Mini Tarts"  - we hope you enjoy it!

July is the month for picking blueberries.  (It's also National Blueberry Month).  It's a great time to get outdoors and pick berries.  And, blueberries are so healthy.  They're a super food!

During the cold winter, we long to go outside and pick berries.  So when they are ready to harvest, we head off with our buckets and pick away!  It has become one of our favorite parts of summer.

We love to go to our local orchard and often run into friends.  It makes for a fun time all around. Chatting, picking and nibbling!

The orchard recently constructed nets to keep the birds away.  They have acres of blueberry fields and they said that they estimate that the birds can eat up to a third of their crop. Those are smart birds!  So they built an intricate fence system with the netting.  It's really beautiful when you walk through the rows, as you can see in this photo.

Though the blueberries are best eaten fresh, we do make a variety of recipes using them as the 'star' ingredient.  We also freeze bags full of them, so come winter, we can have some delicious local berries in smoothies, pancakes or muffins.

Here are some photos of our recent blueberry picking expedition.

This is Jacqueline picking some of our harvest.  
She's a super picker!

Now on to our recipe and what we made with the many blueberries we picked. 

Below my eight year old daughter, Ainslie, takes over for this blog post.   


Ainslie's Recipe for Mini Blueberry Pies

Ainslie really wanted to make tiny pies with our tart pan.  However, this recipe will work just as well for a traditional size pie plate.  Or a free form pie.  It's a very forgiving filling and you can add or delete any of the ingredients.  Basically, you need fruit, sugar and a gluten (like flour) to help thicken the sugars from the berries and 'glue' it all together.  

Recipe for filling and pie crust.

Blueberry Filling:

3 cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of table salt

In a large bowl, add the berries.  Add all the ingredients right on top.  Gently stir with a spatula to mix.  You don't want to crush or mash the berries but you want to ensure that all the berries are coated with the dry ingredients.  Set aside and get your dough ready.  

Once dough is ready, add filling.  Just enough to not pop over the top.  The berries will ooze and 'melt' into the pie crust as they cook but if you over fill them, they will become a goopy mess.  

Bake at 350 degrees until crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool. 

Pie Crust:*

1 1/8 cups of flour (plus a little extra for the board)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 stick of cold butter, unsalted
about 3 tablespoons of ice water

In a food processor, combine all ingredients.  Pulse a few times.  Cut butter into about 10-12 chunks but keep it cold.  This is key to the dough turning out correctly.  

Turn food processor back on.  Through the top of chute, while processor is on, add the butter chunks.

It will look like sand or cornmeal.  Add one tablespoon of ice water at a time through chute while running.  The dough will start to blend.  Watch carefully.  It will become a ball of pastry dough by the second or third tablespoon.  If it's really dry and 'sandy' add a touch more water.  As soon as the ball forms.  Turn processor off and turn dough out on the floured board.  

You want to be quick and not over work the dough through kneading.  The butter needs to remain slightly cold.  So a few flips/kneads and it is ready to be rolled out to pie crust.

Roll it to about 1/4-1/8 inch thickness, depending on the crust you would like.

It's ready for your filling.

You can also refrigerate it prior to the rolling process.  Put a ball of dough in plastic wrap and it will keep in the fridge for several days until you are ready to use it.  When you are ready, simply leave on the counter for about 15 minutes prior to rolling.

Here is Ainslie cutting the dough for the tiny pies.

Pushing the dough into the tart tray with the little presser.

Adding the filling.

Ainslie wanted to add a touch more to them, so she decided to use a cookie cutter to cut a flower design out of extra dough and add them to the top.  Nice touch!

*This recipe comes directly from a food hero of mine, Mark Bittman.  His book is, How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food  It's a great cookbook, filled with many, many great recipes but also how food really works.  Mark Bittman's knowledge of food and cooking is vast, as his collection of recipes.  When I am doubting myself in my measurements or not understanding how something might work, I refer to this cookbook.  It's so detailed and talks to the reader as if he were in the kitchen with me, helping me cook.  I think I have read it over a hundred times and I always find interesting information and recipes in it each time I re-open it.