by Alison Charbonneau
Spring has finally arrived and so have the spring vegetables. Bright green spears of asparagus and heaping piles of tangy red rhubarb usher in a new season of farm fresh fruits and vegetables.
For me, it also kicks off a flurry of freezing, storing and stocking up to ensure that I have lots to enjoy for the eventual off season.
There are a number of ways to store fruits and vegetables: canning, pickling, drying and freezing. I have been known to make the odd batch of jam and I greatly enjoy pickles but, for ease and volume, freezing is my go to method.
Freeze produce at peak freshness to lock in the flavour.
Throughout the season Luke and I will freeze the basics like peas, beans and corn. We also like to freeze peppers and onions in packages that can easily be thrown into a quick stir-fry. As well as things like kohlrabi and even basil which can be great to freeze and easily tossed into soups or sauces for some great flavour.
But most enjoyable are frozen berries, as they are great in all sorts of things - especially pies!
Over the years Hi-Berry has been able to develop some great partnerships with wonderful local business like Southampton’s Offshore Bakery, a business that is at its best when its making delicious baked goods for us to enjoy. And now, the Offshore Bakery is using Hi-Berry’s berries in their pies and other baked goods and offering up tons of options year round!
This new partnership allows Norm, Nora and Luke to transition away from making pies and to spend more time focusing on the farm, caring for crops and adding more products.
I chatted with Offshore Bakery’s owner and resident baker, Justin Niklaus, about his pies and got some sweet (and savory) tips:
AC: Fresh or frozen berries? What’s your preference?
JN: Fresh versus frozen fillings can act the same. The issue would be with regards to bake times and temperatures, which is also a variable with the size of the berries (i.e. strawberries versus raspberries) and the crust or topping (i.e. pastry crust versus crumble). We use frozen berries at the bakery because they are shelf stable and easier to work with in large batches. Once the pies are prepared they can go right back into the freezer until ready to bake.
AC: If you were going to make pies at home to freeze, is there anything special you should do?
JN: Frozen pies bake faster when thawed and baked, but you can bake them from frozen. If frozen I would start at a lower temperature and then end with a slightly higher temperature to get crispness.
AC: How long will a frozen pie generally keep before you should bake it?
JN: Pies last approximately 6 months if properly frozen.
AC: Tell me about your meat pies.
JN: We make lots of personal sized meat pies [at the bakery], we stock beef and chicken every day. Since I make a lot of sweet variations my hobby pies are savory like jerk beef with a turmeric pie crust. Throwing chunks of cheese in savory pies is always a bomb move too.
AC: What is your all-time favourite pie?
JN: All-time favourite pie is my mother’s raspberry pie that she used to make for my sister’s birthday every year. The recipe came from the fine dining restaurant my parents owned a long time ago called the Globe. It’s piled high with berries when it gets baked and then shrinks and makes kind of an intense raspberry syrup with the sugar and butter. When served with a good quality ice cream it’s to die for! Now that we have Hi-Berry raspberries it feels like my sister’s birthday more often and I’m not getting sick of it!
Justin’s last piece of advice was, “Practice, practice, practice; A pie recipe has a thousand variations and all are fun to eat.” Justin’s had a lot of practice as The Offshore Bakery makes about 100 pies a week, maxing out around Thanksgiving with 500-600 pies a week. Justin was kind enough to share one of his meat pies recipes (see below). A meat pie is another great way to use frozen produce over those winter months.
Make sure to try a pie at the Offshore Bakery or, if you’re feeling industrious, make one yourself using Hi-Berry’s own recipe (see below); you can freeze it now and thank yourself later while enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labour for months to come.
Offshore’s Ground Beef Pie
Pastry crust (your choice)
Ground beef medium
Cut onion into dice, fine cut garlic, cube root vegetables. Brown beef and add onion fry until onions until soft then add cubed vegetables, garlic and flour fry for 3 mins. Add beef stock paprika salt and pepper. Reduce until you have a thick filling. Cool and fill pie crust. Brush with egg wash and bake at 375f until brown.
The Hi-Berry Pie
Pastry for 10 pie shells
6 cups flour
2 1/4 cups shortening (one package)
1 tbsp vinegar
Blend flour and shortening together using a pastry blender until it is pea sized. In a 1 cup measuring cup slightly beat egg and add vinegar then fill to the top with cold water (it will be more than 1 cup). Add to flour mixture and stir with a fork until it forms a ball. Let rest for ½ hour and roll into 9 inch pie shells. The shells can be frozen for later use.
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine
Stir flour and brown sugar together then blend in margarine until it is pea sized.
Raspberry Pie Filling
4 cups Raspberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Stir flour and sugar together.
Assembly and Baking
Pour raspberries into unbaked pie shell. Drizzle with lemon juice. Pour sugar mixture evenly over raspberries. Cover evenly with crumble topping. Pies can be frozen at this point and baked later from frozen. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes to one hour until golden and filling is bubbly. Bake on a tray in case it boils over.
photography by Jill Schildroth
recipes by Justin Niklaus and Hi-Berry Farm