Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's boysenberry picking time in the garden

I see that I've got your attention.

Yesterday, I picked the first of the season boysenberries from our garden and made this ↑ pie.

Here's what's left of it this morning.

We planted our boysenberry vines 35 years ago or so and have enjoyed the sweet tart berries ever since.

You can see how the trailing vines spread. This is one of the reasons boysenberries are not a popular commercial crop.  It is difficult to manage all this wild, thorny growth.  The berries have a thin skin causing the mature fruit to leak juice at the anything other than the slightest caress.
Add a short season to the list and it makes for a fruit that you won't find fresh in the grocery store.

From the mid-1930's to the early 1960's, the raspberry, blackberry, dewberry, and loganberry cross was grown in Southern California commercially.  Walter Knott, a berry expert before becoming an amusement park champion, was the first to cultivate boysenberries for market.

Wearing gloves is a good idea when picking boysenberries to protect against the thorns and juice stains.
Using a grass rake is also helpful, when picking, to lift the rambling vines
up.  There are always berries hidden under the first tier of creeping canes. And then more under the second tier and so on.
I wedge the head of the rake under the vine I want to lift, and then anchor the handle into the ground.  
Berries are more firm and come off more readily at night or early in the day.

I developed my own recipe for boysenberry turnovers, pies, and tarts.
When our children were all young, I would make turnovers from most of the berries, as a way of stretching the fruit.  This recipe is good for turnovers and tarts, as it thickens up the juices, so there isn't as much run-off in the baking and eating.

Rinse berries.
For turnovers:
Make pastry. Roll it out slightly thicker than for pies, to help reduce juice leakage.  Cut pie pastry into 7" circles.  I use an inverted bowl as a guide.

To 4 - 5 cups of berries gently fold in a mixture of
3/4 - 1 cup sugar,
(depending on the sweetness of your berries)
1/3 cup flour, and
2 - 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Sprinkle in Cinnamon to taste

Paint the edge of the circle of pastry with milk.  Put about a 1/4 cup of the berry mix in the center of the circle, and fold the dough over the fruit.  The milk on the edge helps to seal the fruit and filling inside.  Seal around the edge, pressing down gently with fork tines. 
Brush the top of the turnovers with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Line cookie sheets with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray to prevent the turnovers from sticking.
Bake in 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

I get 8 turnovers from a recipe using 2 cups of flour for the pastry.
I get 12 turnovers from 4 cups of boysenberries.
(There's a math problem for you.)
I usually have some leakage, but it does not affect the taste.
Baked turnovers freeze very well.

For pies, using less flour and cornstarch will result in a more syrupy filling.
I used the turnover amounts yesterday and you can see the filling is more stable.  The taste is same, so it's a matter of what texture you like.
Dot the fruit with butter after it is resting on the bottom crust in the pie pan.
Roll on the top crust.  Pierce the top crust several times to let steam escape.
And add a collar of foil to prevent the edge from burning.

I like to give the top crust a wash of milk and a light sprinkle of sugar.
This produces a beautiful crust with a delicate crunch.
My mother used to tell me using milk and sugar on top of a pie crust was "cheating".  She thought the "golden brown" should come strictly from the baking, without any milky sugar help.
I never understood her reasoning on this.
I "cheat" on all my fruit pie crusts!
I bake until I see the boysenberry mixture bubbling out of the top vents.
This is about 35 - 40 minutes at 425 degrees.

If you don't have fresh boysenberries, frozen berries are a good substitute.

The next 4 cups of berries I pick will be baked in a cobbler.
I will also freeze some berries for use later in the year before their brief season comes to an end. 
Hey, I just remembered there are turnovers in the freezer from last year.
How did that happen?

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol


  1. I just made turnovers on Sunday. I told the kids that if they picked enough berries I would make whatever they wanted...turnovers it was and they were as good as your pie was I bet. Thank you for the vines! -j

  2. This looks fabulous. A girl at the office made a home-made blueberry pie the other day. Made me stop and think about the last time I did such a thing.

    About 12 years ago. It was an apple pie. I did great, but never did it again.

    I don't think I've ever had boysenberry pie...but will definitely have to try it!

  3. I have tried growing soft fruits but have failed with them all except strawberries. I love boysenberries. It’s one of my favourite fruits and it’s great that you grow your own. I like to visit The Berry Farm in Margaret River just to pick up a supply of their boysenberry jam. Perhaps I should give growing my own another shot?

    Faith Thomas @ The Berry Farm