Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jumbleberry or Rhu-berry PIe

I've loved a mixed berry pie ever since a stop at Bumbleberry Inn near Zion National Park when I was young. Bumbleberry Pie theirs was appropriately called, and it was thick in the middle with a dark-purple jumble of berries and a tender, sugar-kissed crust. They served it warm with a dollop of ice cream all melty on the side. I knew then that I'd discovered heaven on a plate.
We made other trips to Zion when I was growing up, but only stopped for pie that once. You'd think when the mecca of deliciousness is just off the side of the road, my family would have veered that way every time. But I wasn't the driver.
It wasn't until an extended family trip a couple of years ago that we once again made the pilgrimage. The Inn was stark-looking, not quaint, like I'd envisioned it. And when the main course wasn't outstanding, I began to fear. Had my memory betrayed me? The Bumbleberry pie arrived and it looked, well, like pie. Served on a plate, not a cloud, no angels announced its arrival. And it wasn't even as pretty as my mom's pies. How could the taste not be disappointing after all those years of glorification in my head?
Well, it was good, but too seedy. I didn't remember it being seedy before. I suppose the whole point of using the name Bumbleberry is that they can use whatever berries are in season. Apparently, we stopped by in the seedy season.
I still had my memories, though. I knew what was possible. So I made my own attempt at a jumbled berry pie. Here's the recipe I came up with last fall, one we've enjoyed several times since. I made it again the other evening to celebrate a visit from my brother and sister-in-law and replaced a cup of berries with rhubarb. I called it Rhu-berry pie and it should have been served on a cloud.  

Jumbleberry or Rhu-berry Pie

Pastry for a two-crust pie
5 cups berries (Fresh or frozen, a mixture of any of the following: blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, marionberry, or others, just not too many seedy ones!)
1 to 1-1/4 cups sugar (the larger amount if using mostly tart berries or rhubarb)
1/4 (rounded) cup Minute tapioca
1 Tbsp butter
1-2 Tbsp milk
coarse sugar, such as turbinado, for sprinkling

Mix the berries with the sugar and tapioca. Let sit for thirty minutes to allow the tapioca to soften.
Roll out the bottom crust and place in a pie pan. Pour in the berry mixture. Slice the butter into small pieces over the top of the berries. Roll out the top crust and slice into strips. Weave the strips to form a lattice crust. (Because berry pies are so juicy, you need lots of venting. If you choose not to use a lattice crust, cuts lots of decorative slits in the top crust) Crimp the edges. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour  or until crust is golden and juice is bubbling. Let cool slightly. Best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream all melty on the side.  
Variation: for Rhu-berry, replace one cup of the berries with one cup of diced rhubarb. Proceed as directed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Aunt MIckey's Apple Butter, my version

I've been thinking about Apple Butter lately. I know, it's not the season. I should be thinking about strawberries and rhubarb, asparagus and all other Spring delights. But is there anything more delightful that a trip to the cold storage room, where there awaits a jar of Fall, all thick and spicy and ready to spread on some warm homemade bread? I don't think so.
I did it the other day, in fact--took a trip down to the basement for something else and came up with a jar of the stuff in my hand. "Yum!" my girls exclaimed, and for just a moment, I was whisked back to my own girl days.
On an all-too-seldom occasion my dad would come home from work bearing a jar of Aunt Mickey's apple butter. He might have been a wiseman bring gold, frankincense or myrrh. I savored every bite of that rich-brown sweetness spread on toast. But that rare delight was something Aunt Mickey made. Not anyone else. And it certainly wasn't found in a store.  Once or twice, feeling heretical, I tried apple butter in a restaurant, but it wasn't real. Not like Aunt Mickey's.
And then I grew up. I saw a chef on TV making apple butter and it didn't seem so hard. Hey, I thought, I can do that. So I did. And it was good. Really good. But Aunt Mickey's still loomed in my mind as the ultimate in apple butters.
Years went by and I ran into my cousin, Lori, Aunt Mickey's daughter. Timidly, afraid to find out that the holy grail of apple butters had been lost to the world, I asked her if, by chance, she had her mother's recipe. Yes, she told me. She did.  Hallelujah.
I made the recipe she gave me. And it was good. Really good. But I found there were things I missed from the other recipe I'd been using, the lemon peel and the nutmeg. I was aghast. Could it be that what I'd thought of as perfection could be improved?
Since then, I've continued to tweak, and believe it or not, I did reach perfection with one batch. That one was simmered in a crockpot, not on the stove, and was made with Granny Smith apples from my own tree--a perfect storm of deliciousness that might never be achieved again.
Here's the recipe. Take your own stab at perfection.

Apple Butter on warm homemade bread. Not much better than this.

Aunt Mickey's Apple Butter, Alison's version

16 cups thick apple pulp
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 
8 cups sugar (half white, half brown, for me)
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 scant tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
zest from one lemon
For apple pulp: core and quarter apples, but do not peel. Add only enough water to cook apples until soft. Press through fine sieve and measure. Combine all ingredients. Cook until mixture remains in a smooth mass when a little is cooled. This will require about 1-1/2 hours boiling. During cooking, stir frequently to prevent burning. Pour into pint jars or smaller. Process in a water bath canner, 5-15 minutes, depending on altitude.

Crockpot directions: Combine ingredients in a large, 6 or 7 quart crockpot. Cook on high 8-10 hours. Remove lid halfway through cooking time. Use same doneness test as for stove cooking. Process as directed.