Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grandma's Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
It didn't take much brain activity to conclude what today's song would be - a relief after the monumental thought process that went into my last post about my daughter, Katy.  Blueberry Pie = Blueberry Hill.  It's that simple.  And not just because it has the word "blueberry" in the title.  The word "hill" also fits today's story about my connection to this lovely berry.  There is an ongoing debate over who recorded the song first - Gene Autry and Glenn Miller being among those credited.  But Fats Domino's version is probably the most well-known.  I found it fun to sample Glenn Miller's cover and then listen to Fats' cover.  Voice style and arrangement differences lead me to conclude that the "thrill" referenced by both artists had very different meanings!  Times - they were a-changing, that's for sure!

My maternal grandparents always lived close when I was growing up.  But they had a second home as well.  A farm out in the country that sat perfectly upon a hill.  There was lots of acreage - it could have been 20, 80, or 100 acres.  To a kid, it just seemed like it went on for forever!

The drive out to the farm seemed like it took forever, too.  Of course, as an adult I can't imagine what my child mind was thinking.  It wasn't that far.  But I remember just hating the drive - until we hit the bottom of the hill.  That's where the magic began.  The area was deeply forested and that dirt road that took you up, up, up was completely covered by an umbrella of tree branches.  It was a tree tunnel!  It was wonderful!  At the top of the hill, the world just opened up before you with the farmhouse sitting off to the right and the barn and outbuildings all close by.  The car would barely come to a halt before we all piled out.

I loved visiting my grandparents at their farm as a kid.  It was truly a visit back in time.  I remember the days when there was just an outhouse - NOT part of the fond memories, mind you - but it definitely gave you an inkling of an era gone by.  My favorite spot was looking out over the other side of the hill. What a view!  Miles and miles and miles lay before you.  Almost as mesmerizing as watching the ocean on the beach.

One of the best memories of the farm is hands down the morning blueberry run.  Grandpa would ask, "Who wants blueberries for breakfast!"  Of course, we'd all yell "I do!"  He'd load us into the trailer that was hitched to the tractor and drive way out to the edge of the clearing and set us loose on some wild blueberry bushes.  We'd take our bounty - minus the tastings, of course - back to Grandma who would sprinkle them on our cereal or bake them into pancakes.  And then, sometimes, she'd bake them into a pie for dessert after dinner.  Blueberry pie - sigh!
Fast forward a couple decades.  I'm learning how to make pies and having great success - except my blueberry pies keep turning out super runny.  Now, you want some juice, you know, for the a la mode. But mine were ridiculously runny.  A phone call to grandma was in order.  As you may recall from the post about the Texas Hots, my grandmother's voice wasn't always pleasant.  She sounded ornery but she wasn't.  When I explained my problem, she cranked back at me, "You're probably rinsing the blueberries and getting them all wet!!"  I  said that, yes, I thought that you were supposed to do that.  "NO!"  Was the answer.  "For crying out loud, there's no reason to be rinsing the berries!"  She then gave me her recipe for berry pies and that put an end to my runny blueberry pie days.  It's impossible for me to look at blueberries to this day without hearing her voice yelling at me for rinsing the blueberries - and I smile - because I know how much she loved that I called and asked.

This is my grandmother's recipe as she gave it to me over the phone.  The only adjustments that I'm thinking I'll make next time I bake a blueberry pie is adding some lemon zest and cinnamon to the filling.  Now, doesn't that sound lovely?

Blueberry Pie
from Grandma Ristau
Printable Recipe Card
1 unbaked pie crust
3/4 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. water
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
4 c. blueberries, dry!
1 T. butter
1 T. lemon juice
Cream (optional)
Turbinado sugar (optional)

Fit the pie tin with half of the pie dough, rolled out and trimmed.  Place half of the berries into the pie shell.

Place the rest of the berries into a saucepan along with the sugar, cornstarch, water, vanilla, and salt.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.  As the berries heat, they will become dark and glossy.  Quickly, the liquid will turn from milky white to purply blue as the berries start to release their juices.  At this point, the liquid also starts to thicken.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice until well combined.  Let cool a bit.  Place this mixture over the fresh blueberries in the pie shell and cover with the top crust.  Pierce the crust for venting.  If you'd like, at this point you can brush the crust with cream then sprinkle with turbinado or regular granulated sugar.  I love the crackle that the turbinado sugar gives to the crust.

You can bake your pie right away at 400 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes or chill in the freezer or fridge to bake later.  Let the pie cool a bit to let the juices settle and finish thickening.


  1. This was absolutely delicious!! Thanks fr sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Elizabeth! I'm feeling a peach pie is in the near future. I might need help eating that one, too!