The reason for the title: I read 'elderberry pie' and mistakenly thought 'huckleberry pie.' I ran to my freezer and grabbed out the bag of huckleberries I had picked several months ago. After we dug in to the pie and I started write this post, I realized my error.
Whoops. We have both elderberries and huckleberries here, but I didn't have any frozen elderberries to remedy my mistake. Oh, well. This was delicious. Next year, when we get elderberries again, I will have to try an actual elderberry pie!
This post was inspired by our February #LitHappens pick. Debra of Eliot's Eats is hosting our online book group in reading Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls. We are currently working our way through fiction set in different parts of the country. This novel checks the box for the Mid Atlantic and Appalachia. #LitHappens isn't a cook from the book kinda group. But, as always, I can find inspiration to send me into the kitchen.
On the Page
Set during Prohibition in East Appalachia Virginia, this tells the story of the Kincaid dynasty. Duke Kincaid, always known as 'The Duke' has several children with several different women. The animosity between the women gets passed down to their children...and that's just between the women and children acknowledged by The Duke. As the novel twists and turns, the reader discovers there are other children in the lineage that complicate the family dynamics.
Sallie Kincaid was banished from her father's home shortly after she accidentally injures her toddler half-brother, Eddie, but she is summoned home after her step-mother, Jane, dies. Returning to the Big House, Sallie gets sucked into the conflicts in the town and in her own family. After her father dies, she steps into his shoes as a bold bootlegger who earns the moniker 'Queen of the Rumrunners.' Despite her sometimes reckless lawlessness, the reader falls in love with Sallie from the beginning and cheers her on throughout the book. At least I did!
There was actually quite a lot of Southern food on the pages of this book - pies, fried chicken, and plenty of bootleg whiskey!
"In the dining room, the tables are crowded with all manner of bereavement dishes—rich mincemeat pie, glistening spiced peaches, golden creamed corn, baked apples coated with cinnamon, squash casserole covered with oven-browned cracker crumbs, sweet potato casserole topped with puffy whipped cream, pigeon pie with a mashed potato crust, fried chicken with crackling skin, thick slices of fat-veined ham, loins of dry-aged venison, and pulled pork soaking in sauce the color of molasses."
There were so many mentions of fried chicken, but this was my favorite. "I’m not hungry but that chicken does have a glistening golden brown crust and then the smoky, oily smell of meat deep-fried in hot lard reaches me. I pick up a drumstick—I’m partial to drumsticks, the way they come with a built-in handle—and take a bite. The skin is crisp with Nell’s peppery buttermilk batter, and the meat inside is cold and tender. I take another bite, and then another, and when I’ve chewed all the meat off that bone I turn it end-on and eat the crunchy white thing at the joint. Then I pick up a thigh. The taste of the chicken, being fed, nourished, tended to, makes me feel almost like a human being again. 'Dang, this is good'."
Ironically, the whiskey that they make is not Sallie's drink of choice. She says, "Myself, I don’t have much taste for whiskey—after a few sips, my short temper gets shorter and my loud voice gets louder—but for most folk in Claiborne County, whiskey is a part of daily life, like morning coffee and evening prayers, it’s medicinal, a pain soother for both the body and the spirit. Still, it’s true what Mary’s saying. Liquor can destroy families."
'One of those Foraged Berries'
I was inspired to get my foraged berries out of the freezer after seeing the picnic menu the Kincaids pack on an outing to the river. This was also the trip on which The Duke dies and Sallie takes over the Emporium and its business both above and below board.
After an hour or so of frolicking, the men sprawl on rocks, sunning themselves, and the women put on big hats to keep off the sun and spread blankets on the ground, then set out fried chicken, corn bread, shucky beans, elderberry pie, and, of course, sweet tea.
Whenever we have the chance to pick berries in the wild, we do. We have been doing it for years. And anything we don't devour immediately gets frozen for use later in the year.
Crust makes one 8" pie
1 cup flour
1/4 cup blue cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoon organic granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cubed
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
2 Tablespoons gin (or water)
Filling makes one 8" pie
5 cups huckleberries (or wild blueberries if you can't get huckleberries)
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons flour (if your berries are frozen, add another teaspoon of flour)
2 Tablespoons softened butter
In a food processor, pulse the flour and cornmeal with the sugar and salt. Add the butter cubes and pulse until chunks the size of small peas form. Pour in lemon extract and gin and pulse, again, till the dough comes together in a ball. Add more liquid, if needed. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and knead 2 to 3 times. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, approximately 1 hour.
Roll crust out between two pieces of parchment paper. Transfer to your pie pan.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the huckleberries, sugar, and flour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spoon the mixture into your crust and dot with butter pats. Bake for 15 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 45 minutes - until the crust is firm and lightly golden.
Let cool completely before slicing.