Blue berries are native to the US

On our recent holiday to the United States we spent some time in Maine, New England and Vermont. Seeing the ‘fall’ (the autumn) has been a bucket list item for some time. The autumn colours were breathtakingly beautiful. It is mainly the maple trees that turn spectacular shades of yellow, ochre, orange, red and rust in the autumn.

Local cuisine in Maine

As a foodie there is always an additional goal on our holidays. We need to explore and experience the local cuisine. This area is famous for its lobster, crab and other seafood, but I will leave that detail for another day. Then there is maple syrup, but again, you will have to wait to hear more about that.

Blueberries grow wild in this area and are also cultivated.

There were endless offerings of blueberry….. muffins, pancakes, tartlets, ice cream, syrups, jams and even blueberry wine! It was blueberry pie that I had to try. After dinner one night we drove to a ‘diner’ in the next village that apparently offered the best pie in the area. The filling was delicious, but they needed a lesson in pastry!

Wild blueberries grow on the forest floor and bears consume up to 30,000 berries per day! They have found that the anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals in blueberries are critical for the bear’s survival and contribute their ability to hibernate.

A pity he was behind a fence. One of 2 12 year old grizzly bears that were rescued when they were very young cubs. They live in luxury in a large forested area on a mountain top in Vancouver. They are HUGE, resembling fluffy hippos!! They eat thousands of wild blueberries every day.

It was the WILD blueberry flavour that impressed me most.

It was more intense than the varieties that we buy in South Africa. The berries are a lot smaller than those cultivated. Only about 5mm in diameter, but the flavour packed a punch! I carefully tried to ‘memorise’ the flavour and the conclusion was that they had a slightly herbaceous flavour, reminiscent of thyme. There was also a hint of lemon zest, not sourness, just the aromatics.

I could not wait to return home to make a blueberry pie.

I have chosen to make an open faced rustic tart. In France this is known as a galette and in Italy it is a crostata. I love this form of fruit tart as it is rustic and easy to make. If some of the filling oozes out it adds to the charm. I added lemon thyme to bring out the flavour, but if you prefer you may omit it.

There are a few watch points when making a fruit galette.

  1. Use a short crust or rough puff pastry. I find adding sugar to the pastry ‘toughens’ it slightly, making it more capable of ‘supporting’ the filling.
  2. I add a small amount of polenta or maize meal to the pastry that gives more crunch and texture.
  3. The pastry must be thinly rolled but substantial enough to support the filling. There must be no holes in the pastry base.
  4. Very moist fruit does not work well, so I often add a base of ricotta to ‘seal’ the pastry against the watery fruit juices. Painting the pastry with raw egg white is said to seal the pastry. Some recipes use a frangipane (almond and egg mixture) or biscuit crumbs to absorb the juices.
  5. You also toss the raw fruit in a mixture of sugar and a flour such as potato or cornflour.

  1. If some juices ooze out don’t stress, it adds to the charm of the tart.
  2. A sprinkling of sugar on the pastry edges provides colour, crispness and flavour to otherwise bland pastry.
  3. Don’t fuss too much about pleating the edge. It should look rustic.
  4. I use frozen blueberries as the price is better.

Recipe: Blueberry Galette or Crostata