Jim Coleman | How to use up that boatload of blueberries

Posted: July 19, 2007

Q: I have a ton of blueberries that need to be used up.

Can I freeze a blueberry pie? And, if so, should it be frozen before or after baking?

By the way, could you please give me some recipes for good blueberry pie? Thanks so much.

- Joan R.

A: A "ton" of blueberries? Do you belong to some kind of super competitive food co-op?

Maybe you should think about going into the blueberry pie business.

On second thought, you might want to avoid that career path. You know the old saying, "A fool and his money go into the food business."

When I read your question, my first thought was to suggest that you just freeze the blueberries and make the pies later. But that wasn't your question, was it?

You're probably saying to yourself, "Yo, Einstein, I'm already freezing half a ton of blueberries. Thanks a lot!" But just to let others know, blueberries freeze well and can be used months after the season is over.

Now for the good news: Yes, Joan, you can freeze blueberry pies. And although you can freeze them after they have been baked, it's better to freeze them before they have been cooked.

The problem with freezing after baking is that the dough becomes tougher and loses its flakiness. Freezing breaks down the cells of the whole pie.

If you do freeze a baked pie, make sure it has cooled completely.

Wrap it tightly and place the entire wrapped pie in a sealable plastic bag. Before sealing, try to remove all the air.

When ready to use, thaw the pie for about three hours, then place it in a 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes to crisp it back up.

If you're storing an unbaked pie, do not cut vent holes in the upper crust before freezing. Do this just before you bake it. (By the way, lattice tops do not freeze well.)

Again, wrap the pie extremely well and place the whole pie in a large sealable plastic bag. Remove excess air, and seal.

When you are ready to bake your pies (and make everyone around you happy in the process), unwrap but do not thaw them.

Bake at 400 degrees for the first 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for the remaining time.

The cooking times for the recipes I'm sharing here are for when you bake them immediately. Don't forget that if you freeze them, they will need to cook longer - yeah, I know, it's another Einstein moment.

If you do freeze your pies, they should last at least six months in the freezer unless you lose power, at which point your pies are the least of your problems.

And by the way, Joan, now is the time to start thinking about the fall and your three tons of apples. *

Chef Jim Coleman, corporate chef at Normandy Farm and Blue Bell Country Club, is the author of three cookbooks and is the host of two nationally syndicated cooking shows - "A Chef's Table" on WHYY (91-FM) at noon Saturdays and "Flavors of America," on Channel 12 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and CN8 Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m.

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