Pie-a-Day #1: Squirrel War Nectarine, Blackberry Pie

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Well, what can I say, pie insanity is back!  And, unfortunately I am soooo hating squirrels right now.

I planted a mini backyard orchard four years ago.  It’s exciting.  Each spring you can really see how much the trees have grown, and as the flowers start to set and the tiny nubs of future stone fruits start to form you get that anticipatory thrill of fresh fruit.  Each year I’ve had a growing harvest.  It started with a couple of nectarines and peaches, then a handful, then more than a few until finally this year….JACKPOT.  Hundreds of peaches and nectarines are on the trees.  But I knew the squirrels would come.  Last year they took one single bite out of nearly every piece of fruit.

Evan's Peach Tree

So as you see from the above photo now it’s all out war and lots of baking.  I started taking all the ripe fruit off the nectarine tree and threw a very lame mosquito net over the peach tree.  Meanwhile I found some delicious blackberries with the perfect bite to counteract the kind of bland sweetness of the white nectarines.  For the first pie I made a super buttery crust, tossed the berries and nectarines w/a bit of flour and sugar, poured it into the crust and crumbled on a streusel made with light brown sugar.


Almost Dorrie Greenspan’s Good-for-Almost-Everything Pie Dough
Paraphrased by me with a couple of changes because I didn’t use a food processor because mine is broken and I like making dough with a pastry blender better.  And a mention of lard.
Everything should be very very cold.  If you use a food processor freeze the butter.  I find that I get enough exercise with the heavy bag and so prefer to use cold from the refrigerator butter.  This recipe is enough for a double crust pie or two single crust pies or two smallish gallettes.  It’s always good to have extra dough in the freezer.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2  tsp salt
2 1/2  sticks very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or lard
1/2  cup ice water, approx

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and mix them together with a whisk.  Put your diced butter into the bowl and lightly toss in the flour mixture so that each piece is coated with flour.  Add the vegetable shortening.  Cut the butter and shortening into the flour using a pastry blender.  Dorrie says”…what you’re aiming for is a mixture where some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley.  Add the water by sprinkling it evenly over the flour-fat mixture.  Using your fingertips or a fork toss the water into the mixture until it starts to fork big clumps.  When it’s mixed in take a bit of the dough, put it in your palm and gently give it a squeeze.  If it holds together without being wet it’s perfect.  If it’s a little crumbly and you’re a beginner then add a little more water 1 tablespoon at a time being careful to not make the dough too wet.

Dump the dough onto your work surface and divide it in half.  Form each half into a disk then wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you play with your filling.  You can freeze unused dough for up to a month or two.

Blackberry-White Nectarine Filling

Place rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425°.
I have a Arctic Star Nectarine tree so I used white nectarines.  Honestly, for baking they’re not always the best.  They are so sweet that they need some acid or other complex flavor, ergo, the blackberries.

1 small basket blackberries
Enough sliced nectarines added to blackberries to make 4 cups
1/4 cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt

Add the dry ingredients to the fruit in a bowl and toss gently.  Put mixture into dough lined pie pan ready to receive filling. Sprinkle the struesel generously over the fruit.  I like to make big pieces of streusel by  squeezing it together in my hand, then gently breaking it apart into pieces the size of almonds and walnuts.  Then I throw on all the excess more floury mixture.

Bake at 425° for 20 minutes then lower heat to 375° and continue to cook until the thickened fruit juices are bubbling up through the streusel, approximately 15 minutes more.

Streusel Topping
1 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter

Place all ingredients in small bowl.  Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour and sugars.  Or you can do what I do and use your fingertips to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like very lumpy pie dough.