On the menu: Blueberry Linzertorte
I’ve sprinkled a number of catch phrases throughout my vocabulary in my day. Two particularly notable catch phrase phases of mine were ‘That’s grand” and “So rad.” The catch phrase becomes my response to everything, good or bad, thanks to the use of sarcasm. While working on the blueberry farm this summer, the catch phrase I began using was “pretty boss.” As in: “You guys raked 600 pounds of blueberries in 3 1/2 hours?! Whoa. That’s pretty boss.” The confusing thing was that I also referred to my boss as Boss. As in: “Hey, Boss, if you rake 600 pounds of blueberries in one day, I’ll never get out of here tonight.” It was strange. But we got through okay.
Last week I showed you the gorgeous fields at the blueberry farm I worked at over the summer. I actually spent very little time in those fields during the harvest–my job was to run the barn and oversee packing and sales of the blueberries. We have this big, fancy machine called a winnower that cleans and sorts the berries for packing. By cleaning, I mean that there’s a big fan that blows all the leaves and twigs off of the berries. By sorting, I mean that there’s a belt with slits in it that all the small berries fall through. The last step in the winnowing process involves picking through the remaining berries and removing any additional bad berries out by hand.
We sold berries by the quart and in 10 pound boxes. Visitors were often so thrilled with the all-encompassing glimpse into organic blueberry farming at Beech Hill that they walked away with at least one quart. The barn where we pack and sell the berries is at the bottom of the most popular trail up the hill, the trail that goes right through the blueberry fields. People would park, stop in to see what we were doing in the barn, hike up the hill to see what the rakers were doing in the field, and then come back to the barn after their hike to buy some blueberries. It was a cycle repeated countless times during the harvest. After learning all about organic blueberry farming, leaving without some berries seemed blasphemous. They make a pretty sweet ending to a visit to the hill.
My blueberry maple preserves, although already sweet, were in for an even sweeter ending of their own. I had set out to make jam solely to fill a Linzertorte, that famed tart with a rich, nutty crust and a jam filling. Traditionally made with an almond crust and raspberry jam, my version uses a sweet pecan crust to balance the tart blueberry filling. Blueberries and pecans end up in my oatmeal most mornings these days; in my opinion, no nut is a better match. The dark, warming spice of clove and cinnamon in the crust hinted at wintry nights, but brought out a deep sweetness from the filling that made this dessert perfectly appropriate for the cool late summer evenings at the end of blueberry season. Ol’ Boss got a slice of this delight during the last week of my internship, and he gave it his hearty approval. That was pretty boss, because he was hard to please.
I’m on a blueberry bonanza in my kitchen these days. I am aching for those blueberry fields, which developed such a special place in my heart in 8 short weeks. School started this week, though–I’m officially a PhD student (!!)–so there will be no shortage of blueberry business in my future. These days I’ll be sitting at a computer listening to the whirr of a processor instead of sitting in a barn listening to the (much louder) whirr of the winnower. I’ll be moving images of blueberry fields around a computer program instead of moving crates of blueberries around a barn. It’s going to be very different, and as much as I loathe change, I’m eager to embark on this new adventure. There will be blueberries!
adapted from the Joy of Cooking
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and finely ground
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
grated zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups Blueberry Maple Preserves or other blueberry jam
To toast the pecans: heat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and scatter pecans over it. Toast in oven for 7-8 minutes until they release their aroma. Let cool completely before grinding a in a food processor.
Whisk flour, pecans, sugar, spices, and salt together in a large bowl. Add butter, eggs and lemon zest, then mix on low speed with an electric mixer until a soft dough forms. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until softened slightly, about 20 minutes. Set aside one quarter of the dough for the lattice, then place the rest into a 9 1/2 inch round tart pan. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Roll the remaining dough out between two sheets of waxed paper and cut into 1/2 inch strips.
To assemble the Linzertorte, spread the preserves or jam in the prepared crust. Arrange the dough strips in a lattice on top of the filling. Place the strips in the fridge if they get too soft to handle. If they break on top of the filling, don’t fret–pinch them together a bit and they will fuse back together while baking.
Bake until the lattice is golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving. This keeps well wrapped in the fridge for a week.