Why does it seem that I eat more closely to the earth in a big city than my rural home town? You would think living as I do, surrounded by farms, that I would feast on nothing but freshly slaughtered pigs and heirloom tomatoes. But the reality of rural America is that those acres and acres of farmland are mostly filled with crops not fit for human consumption.
To eat really beautiful produce and the tastiest of meats you have to travel a thousand miles from the heartland to the coasts of this country. There people are willing to pay what it costs to grow fruits and vegetables for quality, not quantity. Not to mention the weather permits year-round harvesting and more delicate varietals.
Before all you dedicated organic farmers get in a tizzy, I don't mean to say there is nothing good to be had in the middle of America (I grow some pretty fantastic heirloom tomatoes in my own backyard). I'm just saying it always boggles my mind that I eat better further from the field.
Example A: this pie.
Fresh-picked wild blackberries.
Lard from a locally-raised Berkshire pig—I'll admit that lard was ridiculously expensive, but my it tasted good.
These are the things easily accessible in San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles. I live in North Dakota, fresh lard should not be hard to find. I know someone is raising a pig somewhere around here. Maybe I just don't know where to find it. I'd be forever grateful to the person who would let me in on the lard stash.
Good thing this pie can be reproduced using homegrown raspberries (which I can get here) and vegetable shortening or butter. Even better this pie is extra fantastic due to something not grown in the ground at all—anise extract. You must from this day forward add anise extract to any pie, cobbler, or crisp containing berries, you will never regret it.
And lastly a word about making the pie crust. I like to divide the ingredients in half and make the dough in two batches. I think it is much easier to handle this way, but you can absolutely make one big batch and divide the dough into two pieces after mixing it together.
Wild Blackberry Pie
Makes 12 servings (1 9-inch pie)
For the crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
8 ounces very cold lard, cut into small pieces (or equal amounts vegetable shortening or butter)
1/2 cup ice water
1 large egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sanding or granulated sugar
For the filling:
4 cups blackberries
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon anise extract
For the crust:
Combine half the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add half the lard and cut into the flour using a pastry cutter until the lard pieces are the size of very small peas. Drizzle in half the ice water a little at a time and toss the mixture with your fingers, squeezing some together here and there until the dough just barely holds together. You may need to add more or less water depending on your flour and the humidity etc.
Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day in advance. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
For the pie:
Heat oven to 425°F and place a baking sheet in the oven as it is heating. Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and gently stir until incorporated.
Remove one batch of pie dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly-floured work surface. Roll out dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and press dough into the bottom and sides.
Give the filling another stir to scrape up any flour and sugar that may have settled to the bottom then pour into pie shell. Roll out remaining piece of dough the same as the first and place over the filling. Crimp the edges to seal and trim off any excess dough. Cut a few slits in the top to let any steam escape then brush top crust with egg wash. Sprinkle sanding or granulated sugar over the top and place on the hot baking sheet in the oven.