(HOST) Ruth Page describes how she makes a gourmet blue- berry pie now, while the berries are at their best, in August.
(PAGE) In spring I often rave about Vermont’s strawberries, but all through August I’ve been rhapsodizing about local blueberries. We’re so lucky; whether you pick your own or visit a berry farm, they’re topnotch for their rich flavor and color.
No doubt you’ve read, as I have, that it’s better to get your nutri- ents from fruits and vegetables than from vitamin pills. Absorption of vitamins from pills can be iffy. There’s something about the other nutrients in natural foods that enhances your body’s ability to get both fine flavor and better nutrient-absorption.
That’s great. Berries on morning cereal certainly brighten the cereal, and allow you to enjoy the very-low-sugar cereals re- commended by health professionals. Fruit mixed with low-fat yogurt tastes brighter than in yogurts with fruit and sugar both included. Blueberries may even help improve memory for Alzheimer sufferers. Tests of laboratory animals show that blueberry-flavonoids get into the brain and seem to improve memory.
Moderately experienced pie-makers wanting an easy gourmet blueberry pie might try making it with cream cheese. Start by rinsing and draining your berries. (I can’t give precise amounts in the recipe; they depend on the size of your piepan.) For a nine- incher use at least three quarts of berries.
Make the crust, cool it and spread well-softened cream cheese over it with the back of a spoon. Be gentle! The cheese should be spread about as thickly as peanut butter in a sandwich. I find that one 8-ounce package of lower fat cream cheese, like neufchatel, is just right for two 12-inch crusts.
Next, rinse blueberries in a strainer under cold water, then spread them on a fresh tea-towel. They’ll leave blue spots, but extremely hot water will take them out. Hot, hot water works for just about all fruit stains. Cold water sets fruit stains (voice of Experience).
Spread several layers of uncooked berries all over the cheese on the crust. Now take the rest of the berries, crush them with a potato masher and cook them with a little sugar. I stir in the sugar as the berries heat, and taste. My family likes their fruit pies a bit tart, but that’s up to you. Start with a quarter-cup of sugar and add as needed. Next add three table-spoons of cornstarch stirred in a little water, and stir into berries until thick. If they’re too runny, stir in a couple more tablespoons of cornstarch with water. The trick is not to get it so thick it won’t run when cut; you don’t want to taste the cornstarch in your berry-mix.
When you’ve cooled the cooked berries, spread them over the pie and refrigerate. When it’s chilled, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. When you slice it, it looks gorgeous. Serve it in large wedges; they’ll disappear fast.
This is Ruth Page in Shelburne.