I had lunch with a good friend the other day, and toward the end of our meal together, she asked, "What are you doing Sunday afternoon?" When I replied, "Not too much, what's going on?" she said, "Would you like to come pick blueberries with me?"
To anyone else, this may have seemed an arduous way to spend the Sabbath, but the wheels in my brain immediately started turning. Would you believe that the only way I've ever purchased or eaten a blueberry has been from the pint-sized packages sold in the produce section of the grocery store? Pick blueberries, I thought? That sounds like a blast!
Casey and I have known each other for more than a decade. We were college roommates and sorority sisters at Georgia Southern University, but it was only recently that I learned her family farms blueberries, peanuts and cotton in the southeast Georgia town of Baxley. It's good to have friends in high places!
After a short drive from Statesboro, we arrived at her family's home situated down a dirt road between fields of planted row crops and chicken houses. Yard dogs of every color and size greeted us at the car, barking excitedly, tails wagging and curiosity high. With buckets in tow, we took the four-wheeler out to the 15-acre blueberry patch. The weather was perfect - mid-80s with a gentle breeze, the sky bright blue with puffy, white clouds.
As I learned that day, there are hundreds of different varieties of blueberries that grow and thrive better, depending on the region where they're planted. We picked Star blueberries from the Southern Highbush family. The fruit's namesake comes from the shape at the bottom of the blueberry where five points resemble a star. This variety is particularly suitable for coastal areas because of its soil adaptability, heat tolerance and low winter chilling. With the heat in these parts, Casey's family clearly knows the ropes!
The Southern Highbush variety produces super-large berries with a pleasantly sweet flavor, perfect for enjoying by themselves or in baked and even savory dishes. In Georgia, the two most common varieties grown are Southern Highbush and Rabbiteye. Peaches aren't the only thing our state is popular for: The Georgia Blueberry Growers Association confirms that in 2014, with a reported 96 million pounds, Georgia was named the No. 1 blueberry producing state.
Casey and I had so much fun spending the afternoon picking berries. To the tune of buzzing bumblebees and with purple, juice-stained hands, the ripened blueberries practically fell off the vine into our buckets. With a toss in the air, we caught them in our mouths like popcorn. After an hour or two, we ended up with 3 gallons of berries, half of which I promptly brought home and put to good use. There's something so satisfying about picking your own fruit, then returning to your kitchen to bake up something beautiful.
After washing the ones I needed and freezing the others, that's just what I did. I'm excited to share with y'all my Blueberry Lattice Pie recipe. Whether you need a baked good for a church picnic, family gathering or the Fourth of July or just want a taste of sweet summertime, this pie will satisfy! The to-die-for flaky pastry crust is made with shortening and holds up well against the simple filling. Lemon zest adds a bright citrus note, and a little sugar plays up the natural sweetness of the fruit. It's Some Kinda Good served warm or cold.
If you're short on time, a store-bought crust will do, but I highly recommend the from-scratch crust. There's no comparison! Remember, if you're not fortunate enough to have a friend with a blueberry farm like me, you can always use frozen berries; just be sure to thaw them first.
Blueberry Lattice Pie
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2/3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Pastry for Double-Crust Pie
Heavy cream and sugar, for brushing and dusting top
Prepare and roll out pastry for Double-Crust Pie.
Line a 9-inch pie plate with half of the pastry by wrapping it around the rolling pin and unfolding it into the pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate to fit and crimp edges.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and flour. Stir in berries and lemon zest. Gently toss berries until coated. (If using frozen fruit, let mixture stand for 45 minutes or until fruit is partially thawed but still icy.) Transfer berry mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate.
Roll remaining dough about 12 inches in diameter and cut into 1/2-inch wide strips. Weave strips over filling in a lattice pattern. Press strip ends into bottom pastry rim. Fold bottom pastry over strip ends; seal and crimp edge.
Brush top crust with heavy cream and sprinkle with additional sugar. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes (or 50 minutes for frozen fruit). Remove foil and bake pie for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and top is golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Pastry for Double-Crust Pie
Prep time: 15 mins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
6 tablespoons cold water
In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea-size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to side of bowl. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon water at a time, until all the dough is moistened.
Divide in half. Form each half into a ball. See directions for Blueberry Lattice Pie.
Pie recipe and crust inspired by Better Homes and Gardens' Berry Pie
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is the personality behind the blog SomeKindaGood.com. A self-described food enthusiast whose cooking adventures have led her twice to appear on national television and to star locally as host of "Statesboro Cooks," she currently is taking her passion to the next level as a student at the Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.