Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
When I arrived in Newfoundland two weeks ago, I felt like I was being dropped not into a different province, but into a different country.
The accents. The brightly coloured houses. The scrubby vegetation, doing its best to carve out a life on a landscape ravaged by wind and salt air. The food.
Menus offered up cod tongues. Moose dinners. French fries topped with bread crumbs and gravy. And then there were the berries.
Newfoundland’s rocky ground doesn’t support the kinds of crops you’ll find growing across Canada’s other provinces. But it does play host to an impressive array of hardy berry bushes, some of which you’ll find scattered in only a handful of places throughout the western hemisphere.
Clockwise from top left: Wild blueberries, juniper berries, mystery berries (update 10/13/2014: These ones are chokeberries), partridgeberries, witherod viburnum (inedible, from what I gather), and blackberries.
We arrived towards the end of Newfoundland’s berry season. But as we hiked around the province, we found (and sampled) berries everywhere: still clinging to bushes along the trails, being sold by the bucketful on the side of the highway, preserved in the jams offered up with our morning toast, and baked into biscuits and pies.
I’d like to be able to report that I managed to cook with the berries too, but, alas, by the time we got home from hiking and touring each day, we fell into bed without the energy to even consider turning on the stove. Now that I’m off the island though, I’ll be working my way through the moose-free recipes in my snazzy little Newfoundland Recipes cookbook, scored for a $2.50 at a St. John’s flea market.
To start: Partridgeberry pie, made from tart little red berries that grow in abundance across the province. Where so many pies are decidedly sweet, this one – which we picked up at a community bakesale in Gros Mourne National Park – offers both sweetness and bite. Ours went down easy, helped by a hefty spoonful of freshly whipped cream.
Unless you’re on Canada’s east coast or in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where partridgeberries (also known as lingonberries) are grown, you’ll likely have a tricky time tracking them down. But not to worry! You can easily substitute in their close cousin, the common cranberry, which you’ll likely find stocked in most grocery stores across Canada and the States, what with the impending Thanksgivings on the horizon.
Speaking of which, happy holidays to my friends in Canada. May your day be filled with pie!
Adapted from Newfoundland Recipes and Canadian Living
Makes one 9-inch pie
Note: If you can’t find partridgeberries (also known as lingbonberries, foxberries or lowbush cranberries, among other names), you can use an equal quantity of cranberries or red currants. I found the cooked partridgeberries to have a slight raspberry flavour – if you have easy access to raspberries, try swapping 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cranberries/currants for raspberries.
Pastry for a 9-inch, two-crust pie (I like this recipe)
2 cups of fresh or frozen partridgeberries (see note above about substitutions)
1.5-2 cups of white granulated sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp granulated sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare your pie crust according to your recipe’s instructions, stopping just before you’re meant to divide the pie crust in two.
3. In a medium-sized, heavy sauce pan, combine your berries with 1.5 cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and let simmer until the berries pop and the mixture thickens, stirring often (about 10 minutes). Give the berry mixture a taste about halfway through the cooking process (careful – it’ll be hot!) to see whether you want to add the extra 1/2 cup of sugar. Set the cooked mixture aside to cool.
4. Finishing preparing your pie crust, dividing the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger ball out to fit your 9-inch pie plate, trimming off any dough that hangs over the edges of the plate. Roll the smaller round out to fit overtop of your pie plate, but don’t trim it just yet.
5. Spread the berry mixture evenly in your dough-lined pie plate. Top with the second round of dough, trimming off any that hangs over the edges of your pie plate. Gently press a fork around the edges of the pie to seal the two layers of dough together. Use the fork to poke a few holes in the top of the pie.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar with a fork until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the sugary milk over the top of your pie.
7. Bake the pie in your preheated oven for 20 minutes, then drop the heat to 400 degrees Fahreneheit and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the pie crust is golden. Allow the pie to cool slightly before you dig in.