Today involved a checklist of adult responsibilities, ticked off, followed by time for creating and baking, a few hours in which I relished the childlike pleasure of getting my hands dirty.
I locked in an apartment for my upcoming year at school. Two bed-two bath, third floor, with a cozy balcony eyeing the parking lot, protected from the bug folk by a screen. Just a few days ago I was sure I’d sign at the student apartment in which I lived two autumns ago, but my roommate called while I was stirring blueberries for this pie and delivered the sweet news that an apartment we’d toured opened. In twenty minutes I filled out and submitted my application. A day later, we received approval. On July 24th, I’ll be the renter of a proper apartment. Paying proper bills for 12 months. Stepping onto a new rung of the independence latter. I don’t like the independence latter. Each time I find a new foothold and go up, I long for the part of my youth left behind, crumbled at the base, too far down to grasp and carry with me as I get older.
I’ll be a senior in college this year. Two semesters bar me from graduation. After that, my future is foggy and I cannot say where I’ll be or what facets of my personality will remain or drop or what job(s) I’ll work. Sure, ideals are filed away and I have images of the perfect after stored. In this fantasy, I’ll reside on the Pacific West Coast in an efficiency apartment with sunlight blazing through a large window. My job will involve writing or cooking or design, or might be the base from which I could leap into such a livelihood. A lovely man might pad beside me at some point, though such is a bonus offer and is neither something I expect nor a top priority. Overall, I envision happiness. Light. Peace. Busyness. In some regard or another. But in the less pleasant images I’m curled up in Florida working some minuscule part-time I abhor, holding my paper degree in one hand and despair in the other. I am generally optimistic that some part of my joyous dream will prove true, but I also recognize that adulthood rarely presents itself without scratches and burns. The uncertainty is scary. Seeing blurs and mist is concerning. Getting older is full of ghosts, like the ghost of Christmases to come in Dickens. But it doesn’t mean all of those wispy spirits are malevolent. Many of them are sweet as pie .
Then logical me swoops in. Independence, learning the tricks and trades of adulthood, does not spoil childhood yearnings and loves. Like baking. Smelling the buttery sweetness of a baking pie crust on a steamy summer afternoon fraught with sunshine and showers. Licking syrup from the heel of your hands. Pilfering a blueberry from the bowl. Growing up physically is inevitable. Growing up mentally can be situational. You have the permission of life to crawl under a blanket fort, color comical animal drawings with crayons and lift forkfuls of fragrant blueberry pie between your lips after taking care of bills. The fruit in this recipe is mixed with a honeyed balsamic reduction that is a breeze to create. Add sugar and honey to tone down the tartness of the vinegar and fold in the blueberries during the final few minutes. Pile into a flaky butter pie crust and bake. Top with whipped cream or ice cream. Childhood, recaptured. Baking and cooking have a way of folding adulthood into a manageable envelope and making it seem less frightening.
Honey-Balsamic Blueberry Pie
Double pie crust. You can use a homemade type or store-bought.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 T honey (I used an orange blossom variety)
2-3 T brown sugar, if you desire more sweetness
2.5 cups fresh blueberries
Cinnamon, for sprinkling
Cornstarch, if needed.
ASSEMBLY: If making a homemade crust, be sure you choose a recipe for a double crust: generally, these will require you to divide a batch of dough into two balls, one for the base and the second for strips or a full top cover. I chose to form strips out of the crust top – but that comes later. I like this recipe from Land O’ Lakes: it’s simple and stable. Prepare the base of the pie and refrigerate in a pie tin while preparing the balsamic and blueberries. Roll other half of the crust into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate as well.
Combine vinegar, honey and brown sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vinegar reduces to about 1/3 volume: keep in mind that it will thicken further when cooled, so if it does not stick to the spoon completely, that’s ok. Feel free to add half a teaspoon of cornstarch if you’re worried about runniness. When the reduction is complete, remove from heat and stir in blueberries; set aside.
Remove prepared pie crust base from the fridge. Spoon blueberry-balsamic mixture into the pie and spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Set aside. Remove second ball of dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly-floured surface, until a roughly 10-inch circle is created. You can scroll and see photos of the process above. Cut about 8 strips from the circle and first arrange four about an inch apart over the filling. With the remaining four, arrange in the opposite direction so a criss-cross pattern is created. If needed, trim the strips.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once pie is assembled, bake for about 40 minutes or until a uniform golden-brown color is accomplished. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
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