Wineberry pie is a part of my “food culture,” to quote Michael Pollan. My great-grandmother, who we called Grandma Rose, would make wineberry pie once a year, and we would all enjoy it while it lasted. There’s a very short period of time each year between when the wineberries ripen and when the birds have eaten them all. To take advantage of that time while it lasted, we’d pick the raspberry-like berries, being careful not to eat any (okay, we ate some), and bring them to Grandma to make her pie. I remember making a wineberry pie with her one summer, probably when I was about 12 years old. Rolling out the crust, mixing the wineberries with sugar and flour, using a fork to crimp the edges of the crust, cutting slits in the top to let out the steam, and being sure to place the pie on a tray to bake in the oven. You see, wineberry pies aren’t officially baked until the rich, red syrup has bubbled over the edge.
In my botany class, when we learned to identify the plant, I shared stories with my fellow students about wineberry pie and Grandma Rose. Everyone wished I would make them a pie, but of course it wasn’t the right season. Interestingly, we learned that wineberries are an invasive species from Asia. To learn more about the plant, you can visit this site.
The other night, I noticed the wineberries were beginning to ripen. I made a date with my mom to go pick some, as I noticed quite a few growing up the road at an old, abandoned house. We walked up the quiet road, picking berries, chatting and joking about what we’d do if a black bear came upon us. Mom said she’d give it the berries, but I wasn’t so sure… Then we saw a deer and figured we were safe, since if there was a bear around, the deer wouldn’t be there. The birds hadn’t yet gotten to the wineberries, and picking went quickly. Before we knew it, we had three quarts full and decided that was enough for today. I’ve thought about freezing some, but I really enjoy that they’re only available once a year. That’s what makes them such a special treat.
This afternoon, I turned the wineberries into two pies, one large one for my mom, dad and brothers, and a smaller one for me and Ed. I have photocopies of Grandma Rose’s journals of recipes, and in her 99 1/2 years she was constantly cooking. Most of her recipes are just lists of ingredients, with a baking temperature thrown in every so often. The techniques and cook’s notes were in her head, so it is left up to me to fill those in. Of course, nothing I make is the exact same as Grandma Rose’s, but my creations are always reminiscent of hers, which makes my cooking taste all the better.
Grandma Rose’s Wineberry Pie
- 2 pie crusts
- 1 quart wineberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 3-4 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp butter, cut in small pieces
The ingredients are hers, but the directions are mine, the best I can do after a few years worth of trying to replicate her pie. Put one crust in the bottom of a 8″ pie pan. Combine wineberries, sugar and flour in a bowl, and pour into the bottom crust. Dot with butter, then lay the top crust over the berries. Crimp the edges, using a fork or your fingers, and cut slits in the top or a hole in the middle. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for about 40-50 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and the red juices spill out. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. If you want to make a bigger or smaller pie, adjust ingredients accordingly (depending on how many berries you can pick).