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Wild Raspberry Pie: Could You Survive as a Gatherer?

July 12, 2014

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Could I have survived as a hunter/gatherer? Would I have been happy, or happier?

I think we all wonder that at times. Many folks not so long ago in these parts lived naturally off the land, and I’m not talking about the 1400s. I’m talking about the early 1900s. I’m reading a second book right now about cooking in the early 1900s in Appalachia by Peggy Shifflett called Mom’s Family Pie and I’m looking forward to sharing highlights here in a few weeks when I finish the book. (Her other book on the folk traditions of Hopkins Gap, Va., I looked at here and here.)

Recently I did a little foraging of my own and was amazed how pleased I felt making a pie out of raspberries that we had not planted nor pruned nor sprayed—the old fashioned way. It was a dirt-cheap pie.

Earlier this year when walking along our fence row, I saw that scrub, briar-y canes were forming real raspberries, the purple kind.

I kept watch and sure enough, through two pickings along the fence and down by our very small woods, eating while I picked, and still ended up with 3.5 cups of berries.

I was excited. It felt like I had enough for a pie for the first time since moving here (we also have one red raspberry bush from which I could only collect small pickings at a time, which I froze or turned into jam). For me, I’m glad to be living in 2014 but enjoy using as much as possible from my own garden, fence rows, and farmers market or roadside stands.

Psalm 65, a lectionary text this week feels appropriate here, in praise to the God of the raspberries and all the summer bounty (at least around here things seem plentiful with frequent rains):

You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing. (Psalm 65: 9-13, NIV, Bible Gateway)

***

For this pie, I found and adapted a simple recipe off of the PBS website. While this is too late for some readers, many live where raspberries and other wild fruits are just ripening.

Raspberry Pie

Make (or buy) your standard pie dough recipe for a 2 crust pie. My standard pie dough recipe is first.

Pie dough: (two crusts)

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups lard, or add 2 Tablespoons to quantity if using Crisco or generic brand
¼ cup water

Mix salt with flour. Cut in shortening. Add water. Mix by hand until dough clings together. Form two balls.

Pie Filling:

4 cups fresh raspberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

For the filling, mix together raspberries, lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Let sit while you roll out the pie dough. Or, if you use purchased crusts, let the above mixture sit for about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Take ½ of the pie dough, reserving other half for lattice top. Roll out first ball of dough til thin and place bottom crust in pie pan. Place raspberry filling in pie but don’t overfill. You may not use all of the filling.

To make lattice top:P1050822

Take the rest of the dough and roll out thin. Cut long one-inch wide strips of dough and weave onto the pie, beginning with center strips and laying each piece loosely because you will lift each piece back up many times to create the up and down weave. Alternate with horizontal and vertical strips.

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Seal edges of pie with your usual method, either pressing with a fork or twisting with your fingers (an art in itself: I can finally come close to my mother’s slick twisting, which used to amaze me as a child). Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing. We enjoyed this pie for four meals.

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***

For a video demonstrating how to do lattice, check here:

***

Do you enjoy going wild raspberry or blackberry picking? Or do you dislike foraging with the thought of snakes in your mind? How do you think you would have done as a cook in 1914 instead of 2014? What stories from your mother or grandmother or older have you heard about foraging or cooking in the “old days”?

***

You can sign up for a free e-mail subscription to my Another Way newspaper column at www.thirdway.com/aw

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14 Comments
  1. Nancy Schaffer permalink

    When we lived in Bensalem just down the road from the Delaware River, there were wild blackberries behind our house in an overgrown field. Of course they got ripe in the middle of July when it was hot, muggy and buggy. But I would put on long sleeves, long pants, socks and high boots to keep from getting poison oak which also ran rampant in the field, and armed with my pot, I would get out there and pick what i could. I usually got at least enough to freeze a few pints and have several meals of berries on top of ice cream. Think once I made jam; was not so confident to make a pie then. But they were delicious. I usually had to leave some for the birds though as the field grew thicker and thicker with brush. The last few years we lived there, they tore up the field and built houses on that land, what a loss!

    • I love your description of “long sleeves, long pants, socks and high boots to keep from getting poison oak.” All on a hot July day. It seems berries and poison grow together frequently.

      And yes, what a loss of farmland and places for wild birds and critters, although since we took an acre of farmland to build our house, I shouldn’t judge. However, the fence rows have definitely returned to the wild–I love what Amish author David Kline says about such things. I was going to quote him in this blog post but it got long enough. Thanks for your reflections, Nancy.

  2. I remember gathering fresh wild raspberries from long canes that sprouted from bushes right next to a Revolutionary War cemetery in Grandma’s Woods. Her pies oozed home-good aromas, just as yours do, I’m sure.

    • I’ve been off line a bit. The pie not only smelled delicious, I was pleased how much my husband savored it. I was worried about the getting-seeds-in-your-teeth routine, but that didn’t seem to be an issue for him! The Revolutionary War cemetery in Grandma’s Woods sounds like a good mystery story to me…

  3. Athanasia permalink

    I love to make pies but I’ve never made a raspberry one. Raspberries are just coming in here. All my berries go to 1) jam and 2) pint bags full of individually frozen berries. Those we sprinkle out what we need all year into cereal or oatmeal, muffins or pancakes etc. And 3) fresh eating as much as we can.

    I can’t say I forage much or at all. We grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I also trade among friends and relatives for items we don’t grow, like plums.

    Folks go out to gather morel mushrooms here, but we don’t. My grandma used to pick nettles from along the train track. We also pick dandelion blossoms to make jelly…I guess that could be foraging.

    There is mystery series I read, by Alafair Burke and it takes place in frontier times and woven all through the mystery is the constant day to day work that the women did to keep the house running , the garden growing and everyone well fed.

  4. Makes you tired, doesn’t it, to think about everything women in frontier times did! Maybe our crazy schedules today are not all that unusual, just different work.
    I grew up gathering and loving morel mushrooms. I’m curious about eating nettles. We used to get rashes from nettles, but can you eat them like any other green? I would say making jelly out of dandelion qualifies big time for foraging! I am impressed. But yes, it is nice to have small bags of frozen berries to eat all year with cereal etc. Thanks for adding your stories~

    • Athanasia permalink

      Yes, and doing all that work in a long skirt and petticoats!

      Blueberries do not grow well here, so I order those from MI and they are coming in this week. I order 70 pounds, but we need to make syrup, jam, and freeze enough for pies, coffecakes, crisps, buckles, cobblers, pancakes, etc for the year and then some to eat fresh.

      Dandelions are a joint effort, and they popped this year just in the week of my son’s wedding so there was a rush to pick the heads and cook up the jelly, but I had plenty of help. All 3 girls were home and it was nostalgic to look out the window seeing them all out in the grass filling baskets, thinking back over the years and remembering the kids all out there happily picking dandelions. Even as toddlers, because who can’t pick a dandelion?

      My grandmother made a tea with nettles, was good for something, but it is not a practice my mother or I ever did. I suppose it was one of those folk remedies that have been replaced with a product more “modern”.

      • Nettle tea! I think I’ve heard of that. And how wonderful to pick dandelions that your mother turns into jam.

  5. That pie looks so good! And thanks for your tips on crusts. You MAY have inspired me to put my hands in the flour again. Around our house we have a sure-fire way to make pies. Stuart buys Pillsbury Crusts and rolls them out thinner. I make lattice tops for the extra crust that results and help do the filling. Voila! One lattice top and one plain (for pumpkin, or crumb toppings).

  6. I understand about the beauty of simplicity re: Pillsbury Crusts. Never thought to roll them out thinner. Actually it has been a bunch of years since I went that route (not holier-than-thou), I usually don’t have them on hand and so feel it is simpler to mix up some quick crust that wait for a trip to town. Thanks for adding your tips/ideas!

  7. Joyce permalink

    I have been picking wild berries, blackberries and black raspberries for over 40 years. Yes I brave the snakes. Once stepped in a pile of black snakes. Now I live in Virginia and am more concerned about bears. There is nothing better than taking frozen black raspberries out of the freezer and baking a pie. It is a slice of summer in the middle of winter. Long sleeve shirts, pants tucked in boots and something to cover your head. Ticks are my enemies. I will be picking wild berries as long as I can walk.

    • I love your “slice of summer in the middle of winter” line. I may want to borrow that! But not the pile of black snacks–and they’re harmless, but disconcerting for sure! So have you seen any bears while hunting berries? My daughter has always wanted to see a bear in the wild–from a safe distance of course or from the car. I like your description of how you prepare and cover up. Thanks for your great comment!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Wild Raspberry Pie: Could You Survive as a Gatherer? | Faith Bytes: Elsie Spins a Blog
  2. Great Basic Quiche Lorraine (and Crust Recipe) | findingharmonyblog

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