A few years ago, something happened. Was it the weather, the climate? Did something happen to the soil? Or just a part of a greater normal cycle? That year there were very few berries growing around the Lake. We were worried. Was that the end of our precious little fruit? There’s nothing like a year of berry paucity to make a person like me anxious every year to see how the wild berry crop will be. Not only are berries a favorite fruit, we rely on them through the winter as a means to keep fresh fruit regularly in our diet. Of course, picking our own berries is much more practical than ordering berries to be flown out to our remote locale – from a freshness and a financial perspective. Blueberries are the only berry that will ship out here without rotting on the way. And interestingly, studies have shown that our wild little berries pack more nutritional punch than the farmed variety most people see in grocery stores. The long, light-filled days of summer have a farther-reaching positive effect than meets the eye.
Every year, since that berry drought year, we make it a habit to hike around to our favorite picking spots early in the season to check on the flowers. A nasty rainstorm at just the right (wrong) time can knock all the flowers or young berries down, so just seeing buds doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. But it is a worthwhile and enjoyable task to go out and check. A few days ago, we finished our round of exploratory hikes. Those walks revealed flowers. So many flowers! The salmonberry flowers are already turning to fruit. And the berry bogs are loaded with buds. It’s looking like it will be a banner year for berries. I can already taste all my favorite creations – syrups, jams, jellies, fruit butters, and IQF (individually quick frozen), which makes up the majority of our kept berries.
Inspired by the upcoming picking season, I dug into our freezer to see exactly how many berries remained from last summer. My search revealed several bags of IQF blueberries and IQF salmonberries. Hurrah! There were enough to whip up a taste of summer to tide me over before picking season. And it happened that friends invited us to dinner, which gave me a ready excuse to get baking.
I have created many recipes featuring berries. For this dinner, I wanted to bring something that really highlighted the berries. I also wanted something I could carry easily without bringing a dish or pie pan to deal with later. Blueberry hand pies, or turnovers, would be perfect. I could pack them with fruit and they would be easy to carry over in a little box.
And they were extremely easy to whip up. Pie dough, berries, sugar, lemon juice, clear gel, vanilla and Done! They are perfect as is. But to add an aesthetic Wow factor, I drizzled icing made with powdered sugar and lemon juice on the cooled pastries. That did the trick. My friends oohed and aahed and requested the recipe (a true sign that a dessert hit the mark).
So, friends, here’s the recipe for Wild Blueberry Turnovers.
Wild Alaskan Blueberry Turnovers
- 1 small egg
- 1 ¼ cup wild Alaskan blueberries, frozen or fresh (other berries can be substituted)
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1 tbsp clear gel (corn starch will work)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (vanilla extract would work)
- Single pie crust
- Heat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk egg with a teaspoon of water in a small bowl for an egg wash. Set aside.
- In a bowl, gently mix blueberries, sugar, clear gel, lemon juice and vanilla.
- Divide pie crust into 4 portions.
- Shape pie crust sections into circles, about 1/8” thick (3mm).
- Place crusts on prepared baking sheet.
- Divide blueberry filling evenly onto pie crust circles.
- Brush edges of the crust with egg wash.
- Fold dough over, creating ½ circle-shaped turnovers.
- Crimp edges with the tines of a fork.
- Cut slits on the top of the turnovers to allow steam to escape.
- Brush with remaining egg wash.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Pastries will be golden brown when they’re done.
- Let cool on wire rack.
- Serve as is, or drizzled with lemon icing, or with your favorite vanilla ice cream.