Wednesday August 28, 2013 | 05:00 AM

Blackberries are probably the most perishable and mysterious of our summer berry crop.  Their season is even shorter than raspberries and once picked, their shelf life is fleeting.  But while they’re at the markets it’s a good idea to stock up on them now.  They freeze beautifully and you can use them throughout the year in pastries, over ice cream or added to the juicer. 

Blackberries are still available at farmer's markets but not for long

One of the farmer’s at the market last week said his crops were depleted by all the rain while other growers fared better.  Thirty-Acre Farm had some last week; Uncle’s Farm Stand, a good source for all berries, may have them available too. 

What gets my juices going when blackberries are in season is to use them in a pie.  For that Keith Boyle, of Uncle’s Farm Stand from Hollis, passed on an old family recipe, which came from his mother, Patty Boyle, and her mother before that.

The recipe is so simple it’s hard to believe that it turns out so well.  But it’s an example of “if you put in good it has to be great.”

The formula is just berries, sugar and flour.  When I first read the recipe I thought it called for way too much flour.  I mentioned this to master baker Krista Kerns Desjarlais (of Bresca fame) and she told me that the style of older recipes was to have a thick filling that holds its shape rather than a runnier type. 

Gently mix the berries with the flour and sugar mixture and transfer to the pastry shell, adding the unadorned berries over the mixture

I followed the recipe almost exactly, making one change.  It calls for using 4 cups of berries, which I thought wasn’t enough; I wanted my filling to  come up to the top of the pie plate rather than be below the rim line.  So I added about ½ cup more.  Then, again, it depends on the size of the berries.  Mine were quite small.

Use any pastry that you like but I’ve also given you my basic ultra flakey butter-lard pie dough recipe below. 

Patty Boyle’s Blackberry Pie
This is a great old-fashioned pie and I particularly like the sugar-crusted top crust that forms while baking.

The baked blackberry pie has a wonderful glazed top of milk and sugar

Servings: 8

Double crust pie dough recipe (see below)

4 cups (or more) blackberries
Heaping ½ cup sugar
½ cup flour
¼ cup milk
¼ cup sugar

Pastry dough
2 ½ cups all-purcpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons cold lard, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor add the flour, sugar and salt.  Process by giving it a few pulses to mix the ingredients together  

Add the butter and lard and process by pulsing at least 10 times or until the mixture resembles the size of small peas.  Gradually add the water while pulsing with each addition until the dough holds slightly together and feels somewhat moist.  Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and form the dough into a ball.  Break in half so you have two pieces and knead gently once or twice until the dough holds together well. Shape into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight before using.

Note: you can prepare the butter and lard about 5 minutes before you need it by cutting it into small pieces, put into a freezer-safe bowl and allow to chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.  When you’re ready to use it, it will be hard and blend in better.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Mix 3 ½ cups of the berries together with the sugar and flour, mixing gently with your hands.  Set aside.

Roll out the dough for the bottom crust and fit into a 9-inch pie plate, preferably glass (the bottom crust browns better in glass).  Trim the excess dough but leave a 1 inch overhang. 

Add the berries and sprinkle the remaining ½ cup berries (without sugar and flour) over the top. Add more berries if you think you need to and sprinkle with a little extra sugar.

Roll out the dough and place over the berries, pinching together the bottom and upper crusts.  You can fold both crusts over and under if you like for a thick rim.  For an old-fashioned effect, use the tines of a fork to make a decorate edge.

Cut 4 to 6 air vents in the top crust.  Then with a pastry brush dipped in milk lightly brush the top with the milk until all surfaces are moistened, making sure no puddles of milk collect.  Then sprinkle the sugar over the entire crust, adding more sugar if you like. 

Put the pie on a baking sheet and place in the lower third of the even and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or longer until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  

Just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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