I’m thinking about pie again. Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away and there is a menu to be planned. Back in July we had a family reunion and the unanimous choice for dessert was pie. I wrote a story about our family’s favorite pie, saskatoon berry. It happens that my cousin Glenn, who picked cups and cups of saskatoons for the reunion, is reaping the rewards of his labors by baking pies from his cache of frozen saskatoons. His latest favorite combination is rhubarb and saskatoon and he has been gifting many happy friends and family with his homemade pies. Unfortunately I haven’t been a recipient due to cross-border customs and mailing issues, but Glenn recently sent a pie to his sister in British Columbia. So I asked him about the recipe and how he came to be such an enthusiastic baker. Here is the story (and the recipe) in Glenn’s own words:
I learned to make homemade pie as a young teenager, the oldest child living at home in a single parent family. My mother worked shift work and I took on some of the responsibility of raising my younger siblings, including cooking for them. A few years later I had the good fortune to move in with my Grandmother who was a renowned cook and excellent baker. She loved gathering berries in the summer (especially saskatoons) and mushrooms in the fall. I learned a lot about gathering and cooking through participation and then by observation in the kitchen. When I attended University in the province of Saskatchewan (funnily enough in the city of Saskatoon, which is named after the berry), I would use my pie-making skills when fellow out-of-province students got together for special dinners on long weekends. Upon graduating and returning to Manitoba, life became very busy, and when I needed to make a dessert I would use frozen pie crust or make a simple fruit crumble. As an avid gardener/gatherer I usually have fresh or frozen strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, apples, sour cherries, and some years, saskatoons. I also grow them in my garden, but the Cedar Waxwings always beat me to them. This past summer our family had a reunion and relatives came from all over North America. During the planning process people nostalgically recalled my Grandmother’s saskatoon and saskatoon-peach pies. I agreed to try and provide the berries and my cousin Donna (who writes this blog) agreed to make the pies. As luck would have it there was a bumper crop in my neck of the woods and I was able to pick enough for the reunion pies and quite a bit more. They freeze beautifully; just sort, rinse and dry them and they will be good for many months to come. Donna’s pies were the hit of the reunion and I decided that I needed to make pie crust from scratch once again. I use the Tenderflake lard recipe as it is very successful in my hands. While relearning this technique I happened upon a recipe for Saskatoon/Rhubarb pies; I’ve made quite a few of them since I have an abundance of both in my freezer. I realized this recipe is something special and have received rave reviews from my family and friends ever since. I have gradually modified the recipe to better suit my preferences.
Glenn’s recipe for Saskatoon/Rhubarb Pie
(makes enough filling for 2 double-crust pies)
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 cups fresh or frozen, thawed saskatoons
*Make the filling in advance and allow to cool completely before proceeding to fill the pie crusts.
In a microwave-safe dish combine the rhubarb and 1/2 cup sugar. Heat on full power approximately
4 minutes, or until the rhubarb is cooked and juice pools in the bottom of the dish. Drain off the juice and add enough water to make 2 cups. Dissolve the cornstarch in this liquid. Combine the cornstarch mixture, lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, saskatoons, and rhubarb, and cook over medium heat until thick and bubbling, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool. Fill bottom crusts and cover with top crusts. Make several vents for steam to escape from the top crusts. Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake until golden brown and the filling is bubbling, an additional 30 to 40 minutes. (Place the pies on a baking sheet to catch any spills).
(adapted from this submission to the website allrecipes.com)
It’s just an example of how food connects us, this pie-baking of ours. It’s a sweet reminder of time spent together, a way for a brother and sister to connect over the space of many miles, and a chance for all of us to renew old friendships. Food is a way we nurture and care for each other, that’s what our parents and grandparents taught us. Here is my contribution to the “pie post”: pears and apples flavored with a little ginger and maple syrup. A pie for the non-pumpkin eaters out there. Enjoy!
Pear and Apple Pie with Ginger and Maple
(makes one 9-inch deep dish pie)
1 recipe for double crust pie crust
4 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced firm pears (Bosc, D’Anjou are good choices)
3 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced candied ginger
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Preheat the oven to 400F. Roll out the pastry to about a 13 inch diameter. Fit it into a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. Combine the fruit with the sugar, maple syrup, tapioca, vanilla, lemon juice, and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Set aside while you roll the top crust. Quickly roll the top crust to a diameter of about 11 1/2 inches. Pour the fruit filling into the pie plate and smooth the surface. Dot the fruit with the cold butter. Moisten the edge of the crust and place the top pastry over the filling. Trim the pastry to a 1/2 inch overhang and then press the edges together and crimp a decorative edge on the pie. Glaze the surface lightly with cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut several vents in the top crust for steam to escape. Bake the pie at 400F for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. The juices of the fruit filling will be bubbling thickly and the pie should be a handsome golden brown. Allow the pie to cool before serving.
(adapted from “Pie” by Ken Haedrich)