Today is Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who served our country, many never to come home again. It is about honoring men and women like my father and mother, one fighting WWII in Europe and the other working as a riveter at the Benicia Arsenal, a primary supplier of ordnances for the war effort.
My father was drafted into the Army at 17 and a month after his 18th birthday he deployed to Europe as part of the 75th Infantry Division. He says they were known as the “Baby Brigade” because the average age of the men in his unit was just nineteen. As part of the 75th Army Infantry my father fought in the infamous Battle of the Bulge and later in the Colmar Pocket of Eastern France.
My Dad, like many others, rarely spoke of the war after returning home. Reunited with my mother, they began a life together, part of a generation Tom Brokaw would later term the greatest generation. They have been married for 71 years.
Like I do each Memorial and Veteran’s Day, I did a little patriotic decorating, barbecued some ribs, and baked a pie. I visited my parents this morning with big slices of pie and Tucker in hand. My mother was baking fresh bread and the house smelled divine. Tucker stood guard on the arm of the sofa, lest we come under attack from elderly people walking their dogs or squirrels in trees. We jabbered about anything and everything. I cracked myself up explaining to them how it came to be that Michael had to pull a chicken off my head at 10:30 last night. I left them trying to decide if the bread was done or needed more time in the oven. We had all thumped it repeatedly by this time.
I like a good barbecue as much as the next gal, but I try to never forget what this day is really about. I was lucky that my Dad came home from war. Many do not, and we should never lose sight of that. We should enjoy family, friends, barbecues, parades, flags and pies. We should be proud of our country and the people who fought and continue to fight for our freedom. I don’t always agree with the principle behind the war, but never forget those who serve.
So, throw a burger on the grill and a pie in the oven. This is America after all, the home of the free and the brave.
If you haven’t had time to get the pie in the oven I have a recommendation. Several years ago Cook’s Illustrated published a recipe for blueberry pie. I had never made a blueberry pie but I decided this would be the Memorial Day pie in my house this year. It did not disappoint! The little secrets shared in this recipe, mainly the addition of a grated granny Smith apple, resulted in a pie with the perfect filling consistency. It was not too runny but not to gelatinous either. It was, perfect. I will make blueberry pie again and this will be the recipe I use.
from Cook’s Illustrated:
“This recipe was developed using fresh blueberries, but unthawed frozen blueberries (our favorite brands are Wyman’s and Cascadian Farm) will work as well. In step 4, cook half the frozen berries over medium-high heat, without mashing, until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder or mini food processor. If using pearl tapioca, reduce the amount to 5 teaspoons. Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor; do not substitute.”
Makes one 9-inch pie
Foolproof Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup vegetable shortening , cold, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka, cold (see note)
1/4 cup cold water
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
1 Granny Smith apple , peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca , ground (see note)
Pinch table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large egg , lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- For The Pie Dough:
- Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
- Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
- Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling-pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
- For The Filling:
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
- Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling-pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.
- Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes
- Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.
Enjoy your Memorial Day…with pie! I hope my Mom and Dad liked it. Now that I think about it, I never heard back from them. I hope they aren’t still thumping that bread!