This recipe for my grandma’s blueberry pie is a summer staple in our house. It’s simple and pure, just like my grandma made it, and really lets the blueberries shine.
A few weeks ago we surprised my grandma for her 80th birthday. We threw a small family barbecue at my Aunt Ang’s house and everyone had a great time, even Uncle Dennis who was stuck grilling out in the pouring rain.
Grandma Genovese, aka Ro, is our family matriarch. She’s a no nonsense kinda lady who enjoys the simple pleasures in life: a delicious meal, a competitive game of cards, wearing a new “top,” a glass of Bailey’s on the rocks, a juicy romance novel or soap (aka “stories”) and the warmth that comes with having the whole family together. My mom always used to tell me how much I was like my grandma, in both appearance and attitude, and the older I get the more I see it.
Of course I had to make a pie for the occasion. After all, it was Grandma who taught me how to make pies in the first place. In fact, she taught all of us how to make them. Every year in November all the girls in the family get together to bake apple pies, and it’s one of my favorite traditions of all time. But in summer, apples are out and blueberries are in. Jersey blueberries are at peak season right now, and there’s no better way to use them than in a simple, but perfect blueberry pie.
It’s the simplicity of grandma’s blueberry pie that makes it so good. I’ve tried fussing with the recipe, adding lemon zest and nutmeg and all sorts of other unnecessary ingredients, but it never turns out as good. Just a bit of sugar and cinnamon – maybe a pinch of salt – is all it needs. That way, the blueberries really get to shine. They’re so plump and sweet this time of year, so let’s celebrate them for what they are. It’s summertime, and there’s no need to complicate things.
The blueberries are obviously the star here, but what really makes grandma’s pies magical is the crust. Admittedly, I no longer make grandma’s recipe for pie crust as I’ve adapted my own version over the years. Grandma uses strictly shortening, which produces a tender and flaky crust that is downright delicious and there is really nothing wrong with it at all. Only thing is, I’m a Gaffney now, and if theres one thing I can tell you about Gaffney’s, it’s that we put butter in everything. EVERYTHING. So my recipe marries both families of fat together for a crust that’s not only tender and flaky, but super buttery and flavorful too. Everyone wins.
The technique for making the crust, however, is exactly the same. I made a video about it a few years ago, but I now realize it’s way too rushed and sped up so you can’t really even grasp what’s going on. But it’s worth watching if you’re still a little apprehensive about making your own crust. I promise it’s really nothing to be afraid of. My best advice this time of year is to keep your ingredients cold, cold, cold. Pop the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes if it starts getting even a little bit warm, because we’re in the middle of a heat wave and I don’t know about you, but my house is still a bit balmy even with the air pumping.
Nothing says summer in America like a freshly baked blueberry pie, a la mode of course. I can’t think of a better way to wish this fine country – or my grandma – a happy birthday than with a big fat slice of this American classic. Cake is overrated. Long live pie.
Happy birthday Grandma and Happy birthday America! I hope you all celebrate safely and in style (and obviously with pie).
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 6 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening*
- 6 tablespoons to 1/2 cup ice water, or more as needed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp coarse sugar, optional
- 3 pints fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Vanilla ice cream for serving
- Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter and shortening, then use a pastry cutter or fork to break down the fat until it becomes the size of peas. It's important for the fat to stay cold during this process, so if it starts getting soft, place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes before continuing.
- Pour 6 tablespoons of water over the flour and mix gently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the dough just starts to form a shaggy mass. Add more water one tablespoon at a time as needed for the dough to come together, then use your hands to press it into a loose ball. Resist the urge to knead and squish - overmixing will make it tough. The dough should not be sticky, and you should be able to see the pieces of butter and shortening flecked throughout.
- Split the dough into two balls, then gently shape them into flattened discs. It's important to shape them well now so they roll out nice and round later. Wrap them each in plastic, then refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to two days. For longer storage, wrap tightly and freeze for up to 6 months.
- Add the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt to a large bowl, then mix to combine. Set aside while you roll out the dough.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- When the dough has rested and chilled, remove one disc at a time, unwrap and place on a generously floured work surface. If the dough has been in the refrigerator for more than 3 hours, you'll need to let it soften on the counter for about 10 minutes or so, otherwise it will be too hard to roll.
- Dust a rolling pin with flour and begin to roll out the dough, rotating it 1 inch after every 1-2 rolls. This will help ensure the dough doesn't stick to the counter, and will also keep it in a round shape. Use a measuring tape or the pie plate to determine when the dough has reached the right circumference. It should measure about 3 inches larger than the pie plate. If the dough doesn't roll out perfectly round, use a knife or a pizza cutter to trim the edges and even it out.
- Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and use it to transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, then gently press it in to fit.
- Pour the blueberries over the crust, then dot the top with 2 tablespoons butter. Remove the second disc from the fridge and roll out the same way as the bottom. If desired, you can use a small cookie cutter to cut out some fun shapes in the crust at this point, or you can wait and cut slits right before baking.
- Use the rolling pin to transfer it over top to cover the filling. Use your fingers to pinch together the edges of the top and bottom crust to seal in the filling, then use a pair of kitchen shears to snip off any excess, leaving about 1 inch of overhang on all sides.
- Tuck and roll the overhang under, then use your fingers or a fork to crimp the edges. Cut a few slits to vent the top if you didn't cut out shapes, then brush all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired, then bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 1 hour or longer.
- Allow the pie to rest for at least 30 minutes, but 1-2 hours is better. Cut into slices and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
- *I prefer non hydrogenated vegetable shortening such as Spectrum Organic