I love to see families spending time together, not just brothers and sisters but across generations. Grandparents are a wonderful source of fun, inspiration and tall tales. Particularly when we were little, my sister Brenda and I spent a lot of time with our grandparents, both sets.
As soon as they retired, my father’s parents moved to Cape Cod. For several summers, our family rented a cottage within walking distance of Nana and Pop’s little red house on Bayberry Lane. Brenda and I spent many memorable hours with them.
Throughout the summer there were lots of family gatherings. We lazed around the beach cultivating our sunburns when the tide was high and sought refuge in my grandparent’s shady backyard when the tide was low. Every Sunday night, we joined forces for a cookout in that same backyard. The meals were simple, hamburgers, local tomatoes and corn and blueberry pie
Nana and Pop did not spend their retirement sitting around doing nothing. Nana had lots of energy and her days were filled with activity. She was always busy with family, her many friends and neighbors. She delivered meals on wheels and volunteered at the hospital and library. She even did some substitute teaching. To avoid going stir crazy Pop took on a wide variety of odd jobs to fill his time and pad their social security checks.
As a master carpenter, Pop was in great demand. He helped out his neighbors with small renovations, repairs and their seemingly endless lists of handyman chores. He was busy as long there were husbands in the neighborhood whose answer to the honey-do list was, “but honey, I don’t” or “honey, I would but I’ve got to go sailing (play golf or tennis or snooze in the hammock).”
In addition to these odd jobs, he picked raspberries and blueberries in the summer and harvested apples and cranberries in the fall. When it came to blueberries, he didn’t exactly pick them by the truck load but he picked a lot. There was an abundance of blueberries in my Nana’s kitchen, our kitchen and at least a dozen others. It might have been the cool breezes off the ocean or our impatience to have blueberries before they were truly ripe, but family folklore suggests that Pop never quite managed to find the sweetest berries.
During blueberry season, Nana made pies at least once a week, usually twice. She also threw blueberries into pancakes and muffins and baked them into cakes. If the tide was low or no one was available to take us to the beach, Brenda and I would wander over to Nana’s kitchen. She was happy to spend time with us, tell us stories and make us our favorite treats. We got in her way and asked endless questions as she bustled about her tiny kitchen making cookies, pies and chowder. Whenever she made pies, Nana always made sure there were a few scraps of leftover pie dough for us to make raspberry tarts
One morning after making blueberry pies, Nana found she had an extra quart or so of berries and asked me to bring them home to my Mother. I was five, maybe six, and blessed with the brutal honesty of a child. I didn’t mince words but bluntly told her, “Nana, my Mummy says she doesn’t want anymore of Pop’s darn blueberries, they’re sour as swill.” Luckily Nana had a good sense of humor and laughed. She told and retold the story for many years to come.
It wouldn’t be summer without blueberry pie. A long tradition in our family is pie for breakfast. Whenever there is an extra piece left over from the night before, the first one up gets to have pie for breakfast! Enjoy!
Flakey pastry, recipe follows
1 quart fresh blueberries, washed and drained
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Put the berries in a large bowl; add the cornstarch, sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and lemon peel. Gently toss to combine
Remove one of the pieces of chilled dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out the on a lightly floured surface. It should be about 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick. Working carefully, fit the dough into a 9-inch pie plate. The pastry will hang over the edge of the pie plate.
Pour the berry mixture into the pastry shell. Sprinkle the butter pieces evenly over the top of the berries.
Roll out the second piece of dough and place it over the filling. Press the edges together and trim, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Roll up the overhang and crimp to seal. Cut a few vents in the top of the pie.
Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden. Check it after 30 minutes, if crust is getting too brown too quickly; cover the edges with aluminum foil. Let the pie cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, cold
4-6 tablespoons ice water
Blend the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle with ice water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten into two disks. Wrap each disk of dough in plastic. Put the dough in the refrigerator and chill until it is firm enough to roll, at least one hour.
Do you have a favorite summer memory? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.
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Feel free to visit my other, cleverly named blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010