As if the blueberries that we picked from the farm on Sunday weren't lovely enough on their own (and believe me, many went into our tummies fresh and ripe, as they were) they continued to scream at me the entire way home - put me in a pie! Put me in a pie! So I went straight over to my friends, Brett and Joe's house, and did just that. Except I one upped them. I made pies. Hand pies to be exact.
Hand pies are genius. And, until last year I had never really met one. It wasn't until we moved to the USA that I came face to face with a proper southern, sweet, fruit, hand pie. Maybe we do have something similar in Australia (besides the famed meat pie of course)? But maybe they are called something else? And never have I seen them so readily available. There they are in peach form for sale at little off road country stores. There they are in berry form begging for me to buy them to have with my tea, at our local coffee shop. I think maybe we would call them turnovers? But the pastry is different, and their name is much more suggestive. Hand pies. Hand held pies. Pies to take with you on your way to work. Pies to put in your bag and have later for afternoon tea in the park. Pies to take with you wherever you go, without the mess and all perfectly packaged in a nice little -- hand pie. It must be a Southern thing.
So I decided to make some blueberry hand pies and I decided to make them in my friends kitchen. I am in love with their butchers block counter tops and the lovely big window that sits along side. Oh, the light! So, I took over their beautiful benches for an entire Sunday afternoon. As I got on with making the dough and mixing the berries, the most lovely thing happened. My friend Brett came into the kitchen with his guitar and began to play and sing me one of his newly written songs. It was a beautiful southern folk song, southern in sound and in story. Although the story was a sad one, as Brett sang and played and as I folded the dough, I began to feel the greatest sense of contentment. Here I was, standing in a friends kitchen making hand pies with blueberries that I had picked only hours before, all the while being sung a beautiful southern folk song. Really, in this moment, my Sunday couldn't have been any better. And all I could think about was how today in all it's glory, for me, was a true representation of living a good life in 'the south'.
Once upon a time, if you had of asked me to imagine 'the south', I would have hesitated. Let's be honest, I had hang ups, ideas, judgments. None of them particularly nice. And then I found myself living here. Although I am in Florida, in a state that is thought of as being separate to the south, being only 20 minutes drive from Georgia and having a few good friends who speak with a southern tongue, I am often reminded that Jacksonville is still very much a 'southern' town. It was in this moment in the kitchen, that I began to realise that living here has allowed me to appreciate the truth about this part of the country, and the beauty that can be found by being emersed in its raw, real culture. It was clear that my perception of the south had shifted. Now when I'm asked to imagine the south, all I can think about is it's greatness. Porches and porch swings, sweet tea and fireflies, the humidity and y'all, low country boils and bluegrass. And of course, the generous, hospitable people and the traditional recipes and home made goods that represent the south. Like Gerard, the welcoming owner of the Blueberry farm or like the little off road country stores that sell home made hand pies.
The blueberries were right to scream at me, they needed to be made into pies. Because if they hadn't, then I would never have stood in my friends kitchen while listening to a sweet, southern folk song and I may have never stopped to consider just how much I appreciate all that I have learnt about the south and how great living in this part of the country really is. Want a piece of that pie? Here is the recipe:
Blueberry + Ginger Hand Pies
prep time: 35 minutes
cook time: 40 minutes
total time: 1 hours 15 minutes
yields: 6 hand pies
250 grams / 8.8 ounces unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water
All-purpose flour (for dusting)
2 cups / 10 ounces blueberries
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons crystallised ginger (see recipe below), finely chopped/processed in food processor 1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon left over sugar from crystallized ginger recipe
Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F / Gas Mark 5
Combine the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix it in with a fork. Add the water, continue mixing with the fork until it is absorbed, then knead lightly until the dough comes together into a ball. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball of dough and on the rolling pin. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 15x10-inch rectangle and approximately 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut into 6 squares.
Toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger and sugar in a medium bowl. Brush edges of squares with water and mound some blueberries in center of each square. Fold dough over to form a triangle, and press edges first with thumbs, then with a floured fork to seal. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut 2 slits in tops. Bake hand pies, rotating sheet halfway through, until juices are bubbling and pastry is golden brown, 35–40 minutes (juices will run onto parchment). Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 1 hour 5 minutes
total time: 1 hours 10 minutes
225g /1/2 pound fresh ginger root
Approximately 225g / 1/2 pound sugar
Peel the ginger root and slice into thin slices. Place into a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the temperature to medium-high heat. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the ginger is tender/rubbery. Drain the ginger reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Weigh the ginger and measure out an equal amount of sugar. Return the ginger and 1/4 cup water to the pan and add the sugar. Cook over medium heat stirring frequently. Cook until the sugar syrup looks dry and all of the moisture has almost evaporated. The sugar will begin to crystallise (this will take approximately 20 minutes). Transfer the ginger to a cooling rack ,or baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread to separate the individual pieces. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Save the sugar that drops beneath the cooling rack and use to top the hand pies.