Historic berry crop puts the blue in patriotic pie

As searing heat shatters weather records throughout the state, one silvery-blue lining to such extreme temperatures is a bumper crop of blueberries.

The haul could hit a historic 100 million pounds, the Oregon Department of Agriculture reported last week as the earliest blueberry harvest in decades got underway. A mild winter and spring made for excellent growing conditions. The largest blueberry harvest statewide was 93 million pounds in 2013.

To meet demand from European and Asian countries, where consumers have bought into blueberries’ healthful properties, Oregon farmers have planted more than 9,300 acres of the antioxidant-rich fruit. The berries have become key ingredients in health- and beauty products, including skin care, and even high-end pet food.

That popularity comes with a $106 million price tag for berries grown in Oregon, where the crop could break into the top 10 agricultural commodities this year, the ODA reported. Oregon also could emerge as the nationwide leader in blueberry production, edging out Georgia, Washington and Michigan.

Consumers frequenting farmers markets and roadside stands snap up 4 million pounds of Oregon blueberries, particularly after Fourth of July when the harvest shifts into high gear. With months of blueberry picking ahead, now is the time to pair them with other peak-season fruit, namely strawberries.

Although I don’t like to fuss over holiday-themed foods, this recipe offers just enough opportunity to tap into my creative side. If I’m serving kitschy fare, I’d much prefer this to a star-spangled sheet cake.

And it invites the kids to play, too. Recipe testers for Tribune News Service found an extra pair of small hands, positioned in a “V,” were helpful when forming the blueberry wedge.

Test-kitchen cooks also theorized that King Arthur Flour either manipulated the image of the pie pictured on its website, or added the stars-and-stripes outer crust toward the end of baking. The pie tends to over-brown, even covered with aluminum foil about halfway through baking.

Tribune News Service photo

American Flag Pie

Pastry for a double-pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

For strawberry-rhubarb filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup pie filling enhancer (such as cornstarch)

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups lightly packed diced rhubarb, fresh or frozen

2 cups hulled, quartered strawberries, fresh or frozen

For blueberry filling:

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons pie filling enhancer (such as cornstarch)

2 cups blueberries, washed and drained

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

White sanding sugar, for garnish

Line a 9-inch pie pan with about 2/3 of the pastry. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

To make strawberry filling, stir the sugar, enhancer and salt together in a large bowl; toss with the rhubarb and strawberries. Set aside.

To make blueberry filling, stir together the sugar and enhancer in a smaller bowl; toss with the blueberries, then stir in the lemon juice.

Fill a 90-degree wedge of pie shell with blueberry filling and remaining 270-degree wedge with strawberry-rhubarb filling.

Roll remaining crust into a 10-inch-long rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Cut dough, lengthwise, into 5 to 6 3/4-inch-wide strips. Cut three to five 1 1/4-inch stars from remaining dough.

Place strips parallel to each other over strawberry-rhubarb section, cutting any excess off ends and pinching them to edge of crust. Place stars atop blueberry filling.

Brush stars, stripes and outer crust with water and sprinkle with the sanding sugar, if desired.

Place pie on baking sheet (to catch drips) and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust nicely browned. (Recipe testers covered pie with aluminum foil about halfway through to keep it from overbrowning).

Remove pie from oven, and let cool for at least an hour before serving.

Makes 1 pie.

— Recipe from King Arthur Flour

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