Should we thank Luther Burbank for introducing the Himalayan Blackberry to the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century? The plump, juicy berries have supplied us with delicious pies, syrups and jams that burst with flavor, but on the other side, some folks would chose to curse him for bringing West Coasters a botanical nightmare.
This overbearing plant can make grown men shed tears of frustration. I’ve seen folks drop to their knees in anguish because green thorny tentacles were spotted slithering over, under and through the backyard fence …for the 15th year in a row.
So, should we thank or curse Mr. Burbank for bringing the blackberry to the Pacific Coast? I think most of us would agree that he did us a favor. In spite of their dauntless proliferation, this native blackberry tantalizes our taste buds with a unique and magnificent flavor. Granted, it’s a love-hate relationship between Northwest residents and the Himalayan Blackberry, but love conquers all when the deliciously fragrant pies come bubbling from the oven. Truly, it’s one of the finest desserts on God’s green earth.
Favorite Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened margarine
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, optional
Yield: 2-9” crusts
Sift together salt and flour into medium sized bowl. Mix margarine and sifted ingredients together, using a pastry blender. Add water, a little at a time, until mixture resembles dry oatmeal. Stir with a heavy-duty wooden spoon. It’s much simpler to make pie crust in a food processor, just through in all the ingredients, including the cold water, and process until mixture resembles dry oatmeal. Divide dough into two large balls. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to assemble pies.
Roll out each ball of dough (one at a time) on a lightly floured board. Gently place the first crust in the bottom of the pie pan. Do not stretch the crust while fitting into the pan and leave at least 1″ extra hanging over the edge of pan. Using a fork, generously prick the entire bottom and side of crust (this is to prevent crust from becoming doughy). Pour filling into the bottom crust as directed; dot with small pieces of butter, if desired.
Above is one technique for venting a top piecrust.
Roll out the top crust. While it’s still on the board, use a sharp knife to cut a design so the pie will have a vent while it’s baking. I usually cut a stem with tiny “leaves” along the stem but tiny Xs or hearts, circles, etc. are perfectly fine. Carefully fold the crust in half and lay it over the top of pie. Crimp the edges using your fingers or a tool that’s specially made for crimping pie edges and trim off excess crust that’s hanging below the crimped edge.
Above is a simple technique for venting a top piecrust.
Cook’s Note: Bottom piecrust can be pre-baked in a preheated oven at 350° for about 10 minutes if your bottom centers aren’t cooking all the way through to the center the way you’d like.
6 to 8 cups fresh blackberries, washed and drained
1-cup granulated sugar (less if berries are especially sweet)
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
left”>4 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1-teaspoon cinnamon and 2-teaspoons sugar mixed together (set aside)
Preheat oven to 450°. Sift together sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, flour and salt. Sprinkle dry, sifted mixture onto blackberries. Mix gently to coat the berries. Pour berry filling into pie pan that’s been lined with (unbaked) piecrust. Drop small pats of butter over the top of filling.
Add top crust that’s properly vented; crimp crusts and cut off excess crust. Sprinkle finished top with reserved cinnamon and sugar mixture. Cover the crimped edge with strips of aluminum foil to avoid burnt crust. Remove strips 10 to 15 minutes before removing pie from the oven.
Bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40 to 45 minutes longer or until bubbly in center. Cool the pie on the counter and then chill it completely before cutting it into individual pieces. This helps the pie retain a well-defined shape.
Cook’s Note: Place a large piece of aluminum foil on the lower rack below the pie in case it overflows, which is a good practice when baking any type pie.