Wild Blueberry Pie: a camp summer tradition

wild blueberry pie via@kingarthurflourI’m up early here at our summer camp, because it’s going to be a busy day. Company’s coming, and I need to get some baking done, but first I’m going for a swim. Couple of miles, past the islands, around to the right, along the shore and back.

wild blueberry pie via@kingarthurflour

These are not, as I stated, blueberry flowers. They’re sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), growing next to and through the blueberry bush. The flowers are toxic, so don’t even think about decorating your plate with them!

Then it’s into the kayak with my buckets. There’s plenty of picking to do. When I get back, I’m making a wild blueberry pie.I’ve been watching the bushes since early June, when they started flowering.

wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflourJust a few feet farther along the shore, facing south, the bushes are giving birth to little baby blueberries. I’ll be spending a couple of hours today capturing Mother Nature’s gifts.

wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflourI have an old fitted bed sheet that I’ve cut in half; one of the gathered corners goes over the front of the kayak’s cutout. The empty berry containers from the store are important; it’s good to have something with a lid on it so the berries don’t spill inside the boat.

wild blueberry pie via@kingarthurflourAs I paddle along the shoreline (I have about 20 favorite picking spots around the lake’s edge), the berries look almost like little blue clouds among the greenery. Lucky for me, the bushes overhang the water, and it’s simple to paddle underneath.wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflour Ohhhhhh, yesssss. Time to get in there and start picking.

wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflourI could do this for hours – and I have. It isn’t a job for the squeamish. There are bugs, beavers, wakes from the occasional water skier going by – and once, a fisher cat looking me right in the eye from four feet away. A good morning’s work, though messy…

wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflour…will land you a lapful of blueberries to take home. Wild blueberry pie isn’t far away now.

wild blueberry pie  via@kingarthurflourBack at camp, I wash and sort everything; I keep a stash of pie crust dough in the freezer at the ready, and I took it out last night and stuck it in the fridge, in preparation for its big moment.

This is the Blueberry Pie recipe I use, with a slight modification: I don’t put any cinnamon in it. Instead, I add about five or six scrapes of fresh nutmeg. Only fresh will do; it has a citrus-y note to it that complements the lemon juice perfectly.

wild blueberry pie via@kingarthurflourOur stove at camp is an early 1960s vintage GE, complete with push-button controls, but it works just fine, as you can see.

Just hours after picking those fresh berries, they’ve become a bubbling-hot blueberry pie. It’s an unqualified hit with my family – in fact, my nieces are celebrating with some singing around the table.

wild blueberry pie via@kingarthurflourThe best kind of summer day, in my opinion, is this: foraging, good food, family, and wild blueberry pie.

Please share your favorite summer meal memory with us!

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. Sammie

    Oh what a beautifully written and photographed post. How wonderful to be able to pick wild blueberries. I’ve never made blueberry pie, having seen yours I must now. Sammie

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Thank you, Sammie. I consider myself fortunate every time I push off from shore. Susan

  2. Sindy

    My sister and I knew where raspberry vines were and would go pick them and have them for breakfast. Never enough for an actual pie though.

    Reply
  3. Carol

    Susan:

    Is this in Maine? I am homesick for Maine and blueberry pie. I will have to settle for Kentucky blueberries and I am not complaining. I love the photos. Time to make pie. What crust recipe do you use?

    Carol

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Our place happens to be near the NH border in Massachusetts, but I went to college in Maine and spent a summer running the Inn at Asticou in Northeast Harbor. The recipe I use for the crust has a link in the post, but here it is again.

  4. Am

    Ah, wild blueberries always remind me of time spent up at camp in Maine! Nostalgia in a pie.

    Just one quibble: the flowering bush you posted isn’t a blueberry. Blueberries have white bell-shaped flowers. Yours looks more like a mountain laurel or something similar. (The leaves are very different as well.)

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Sorry, Am, but in Massachusetts it’s the other way around. The mountain laurel is white, and the blueberry flowers are in fact that color. Further south the wild bushes have longer, bigger leaves than what you find on the Maine wild bushes, where they rarely get bigger that an inch and a half in length. Susan

    2. CAH

      Am is actually correct. The flowers are mountain laurel. Neither in Massachusetts or Maine are blueberry flowers that color pink with the dark dots. And, as Am points out the leaves are quite different. Mountain laurel and blueberries can grow in the same place, so between flowers in the spring and berries in the summer, it would be easy to confuse the two bushes.

    3. Susan Reid, post author

      I stand corrected. Looked very much to me like the branch with baby berries on it wasfrom exactly the same bush, but must have been growint through the laurel. I also think the laurel’s flowers turn white the longer they’re on the bush. Susan

    4. Rickey

      I agree that the flowers are not blueberry flowers. They look to me like sheep’s laurel which has a pink flower. Blueberry flowers can be pink, white or even greenish in tone but are much more closed, bell shaped, than the sheep’s laurel. Both are members of the Heath family and will live in similar habitats.

      Loved the pictures and I am ready for some pie but they will be New Hampshire blueberries.
      Rickey

    5. Susan Reid, post author

      Totally correct, Rickey, and I have corrected the entry to reflect the true sheep’s laurel situation. Susan

  5. lyna

    Favorite summer meal–sweet corn that quickly went from patch to pot to plate, with butter and a pinch of salt.

    Reply
  6. Brenda

    Been years since I’ve had fresh wild blueberry pie! Last one my son-in-law made would have been perfect, but cinnamon and lemon zest don’t belong in there! Only fresh blueberries, although I find any other frozen berry acceptable. Yeah, I’m picky about pies.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      It’s your pie, Brenda, and it should be as you wish it! I hope you have a chance at another slice of wild blueberry before the summer’s out! Susan

  7. Loretta

    My husband’s family had a place upstate, where we spent many summers. My children and my mother would pick wild blackberries. I would put them in pancakes if they didn’t eat them all by the time they got back to the house. Brings back wonderful memories. Thanks for your story.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      Most welcome, Loretta. I hope everyone has a story in their lives somewhere, of capturing summer moments like these. Susan

  8. Tom Garbacik

    Nice! Beautiful pie, I can almost taste the berries. It sounds like a wonderful way to begin a day. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      I was out picking again today for 5 hours; all the time I was thinking how amazing it is that nature is so bountiful. Free, healthy, organic produce, just waiting for me to take home 🙂 Susan

  9. cwcdesign

    Susan, you brought back wonderful memories of when I was at camp in NH (Squam Lake to be precise) in th 60’s. If we went down to the point and brought back 3 tennis ball cans of blueberries, the kitchen would make a pie just for our shack. They were delicious!

    Reply
  10. member-laurajraposa

    What a wonderful post, Susan! I cannot wait for the Maine wild blues to make their way to the south shore of Boston. Love, love, LOVE!

    Reply
  11. Michelle

    I don’t live in the New England area but I would love to know the recipe you used to make your delicious pie? I would love to try it! Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We think all bakers should have access to the delicious bliss that is this pie, even non-New Englanders! Here is the link for our Blue Ribbon Blueberry pie recipe: http://bit.ly/1Sxg0C8 You can usually find the recipes that our blogs feature by clicking on the orange links underneath the top most photo. I hope this helps you on your way to making a wild berry pie! Kye@KAF

  12. John Patterson

    I think the pink flowers debated above are sheep laurel or “lamb kill” that also like damp places as along a pond shore.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid, post author

      I’m going to have to do some more homework with some plant books. We have mountain laurel, for sure, another shrub that has long flower clusters in a waterfall sort of configuration (small white flowers, long oval leaves that don’t have as deep serrations), the blueberry bushes, swamp maples, pine, spruce, hemlocks, birch, and oak trees. There’s a lot to look at on the water! Yesterday I saw the loon fishing, there’s a bald eagle nest in the area, and geese, mergansers, ducks… the place is lousy with all things wild and wonderful!

  13. thebeemus3201

    Can I make this with Wymans frozen Maine blueberries? If so,how?
    Yes you can make this recipes with frozen blueberries. Make the crust per the recipe and roll out. You would need 8 cups of frozen berries. Then add the balance of the filling ingredients and mix together. Assemble pie and bake. Follow the recipe as if you were using fresh berries. Hope this helps. JoAnn@KAF

    Reply
  14. MTehomilic32

    My blueberry picking story is a bit different. When my parents moved out to Long Island, New York from the Bronx in 1952, we moved to West Babylon just off of Route 109. It was just beginning to build up but still was quite rural. The town had planted blueberry bushes all along Rte 109. My Mom who just died last year…almost 92…would take me and my younger brother to pick the blueberries! We would then have them on our cereal and we attempted to make a pie….as I reminisce, I am laughing because my mother never lived down our first, second, and third attempt to make a blueberry pie!! She may have been Italian but she was not born with the cooking gene!!! Every time we tried the sugar always separated and fell to the bottom of the pie…and became 3/4 of an inch of blueberry flavored hard sugar candy….which we fought over. The pie looked horrible but at that time we were just grateful for free blueberries!!!

    Monica

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sometimes baking failures are more memorable and more fun to re-live than baking successes! It sounds like blueberry pie transports you to another time that is filled with hard but sweet blueberry sugar and lots of smiling family members. Thanks for sharing your story–we hope you give this recipe a try! Kye@KAF

  15. Liz

    Wonderful post and beautiful photos, Susan. We live in Maine near a U-pick farm with cultivated high bush blueberries. There is something zen-like about the experience of picking those berries. And nothing beats a summer blueberry pie, or blueberry crisp, or having a bag of those berries in the freezer to take out in winter for a treat and memory of summer. Your pie looks delicious!

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *