Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gooseberry-Apricot Pie on the 4th of July

My aunt and uncle had gooseberry bushes on their property. On summer evenings, when I was visiting with my family for a cookout or the 4th of July, or spending the night by myself, we'd collect old Tupperware bowls and walk the few yards to the line of gooseberry bushes. Sometimes we'd find my uncle's mother Maggie there, already picking. Their bushes were the green gooseberries, weird entities that reminded me of eyeballs, with seeds like a grape.  I remember my mom and aunt baking them into tart pies with top crusts bulging around the spherical fruits.

I was surprised to see cartons of gooseberries here at the farmers' market in DC a few weeks ago. Though when I was growing up, I didn't consider that they were a fruit that's mainly prevalent in the midwest, but upon spotting them, I realized I hadn't really seen them anywhere else. When I picked out two pints, one green and one purple, my friends who I was with, one from California and another from DC weren't sure what they were, and asked if I knew what to do with them. I nodded, confident, "We used to pick them at my aunt's house." But when I got home, I wasn't as sure. In the few days they sat in the fridge before I decided to bake them, the "green" gooseberries had turned purple, and when I tried one raw, it wasn't as sour as I'd remembered.

I searched the internet for a gooseberry pie recipe, and not finding one I felt totally confident in, decided to combine a few into my own variation. Most of them called for cooking the berries before baking them, which seemed strange, since I quite clearly remember my family's version containing whole fruit. I wasn't sure of my memory, though, so I opted for the pre-cooking technique.

I made the crust the night before, on July 3rd, in our sweltering kitchen. Though I usually prefer to cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or knife and fork, I decided to put my almost-frozen butter in the food processor, thinking it would mean less working of the butter, aka colder butter (aka flakier crust). In the end, the butter was a little too incorporated for my taste--more like tart dough than pie dough, but it was probably the best option considering the temperature.

On the morning of the 4th, I got up early to make the pie to beat the heat, and leave room in the day for other festivities. I'm not sure if I over-cooked the gooseberries in my pre-coffee state, but they basically turned to a quick jam. I had doubts of a gooseberry-jam pie, so I trusted my instinct and decided to throw some sliced apricots I'd been saving into the filling. I'm glad I did. The result was a tart-sweet, slightly unusual pie that was perfect à la mode on a humid Independence Day.

Gooseberry-Apricot (Goosepricot) Pie

Nothing-in-the-House Pie Crust
4 c. of fresh green or purple gooseberries
3/4 c. sugar
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
2 pints apricots (6-8 medium sized apricots), peeled & sliced

1. Prepare the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour. Once chilled, roll out 1/2 of pie crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan. You can choose to roll out the top-crust now and refrigerate it flat, or roll it out once you've prepared the filling. Either way, you should put both the remaining crust and the pie pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling (this is a crucial step if it is hot in your kitchen!).
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine gooseberries, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Place on medium heat until berries begin to break down and mixture thickens, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool to room temperature.
3. Remove pie pan with bottom crust from fridge and place sliced apricots on the bottom of the crust. Pour the gooseberry filling over the sliced apricots and distribute evenly. Dot the gooseberry filling with the 2 Tblsp. of butter
4. If you haven't rolled out the top crust yet, do that now. Once the crust is rolled, place over the top of the gooseberry filling. Seal the bottom and top crusts and flute the sides decoratively. Decorate the top crust if you wish (you'll notice the flag on mine!) and cut steam vents with a fork or knife. Brush top crust with an egg wash (you can use the leftover egg from the crust) and dust with Turbinado sugar.
5. Place pie in the oven and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F. After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 35-45 minutes more until the crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on each slice!

After throwing this baby in the oven, we got down to business with an all-out hot dog bar, inspired by my friend Francis Lam's piece in Gilt Taste. My favorites were a homemade pimento cheese-vegetarian chili-crushed Utz BBQ chips dog and a Banh Mi dog (radish & carrot slaw-cilantro-cilantro mayo) but other toppings included pickled jalapenos, caramelized onions, "hot dog relish", sauerkraut, and an assortment of condiments. We also had a hot dog blind taste test--Nathan's vs. Hebrew National-- Nathan's won. After a few dawgs each we collapsed on the couch for a lazy game of Trivial Pursuit. My fella was feeling sick (not from the hot dogs), so instead of fireworks, which I'm not the biggest fan of anyway, we decided to celebrate the USA with a movie night and a slice o' gooseberry-apricot pie on the 4th of July.

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