With the devastation of the California fires hitting our beautiful state again this fall, Deb and I are reminded of how important our family and friends are, especially in times of need. There are now so many who’ve lost their homes, need a place to rest their head, fill up on good food, and country comfort. We treasure the times where we can just sit around the table with our family and friends. We have so much to be grateful for. Now, more than ever.
When Deb migrated to California from Texas, she created a new tradition she calls “Friendsgiving.” Always the day after Thanksgiving, it became an offbeat way to share a holiday meal with “framily,” a celebration of community with friends. Since her parents’ are both deceased and her brother moved to Florida, her friends are her family. So, Deb and her husband, Chick, found a way to gather their community together to celebrate the holidays by sharing a meal.
Each year, they’d set a theme: bring your favorite dish or a meal that was handed down through the generations -- a grandparent or great-grandparents’ recipe. The cooking starts days before, filling her home in West Marin with the tempting aromas of yummy food.
The annual feast took on a life of its own, each year a different story, a different menu. One year it was a fried turkey, another year they added a duck and a goose. Deb even transformed a side dish she hated as a child -- the old green bean casserole with canned fried onions -- into a delicious one she made from scratch. Of course, guests expect lots of music: blues, rock or what the young folks now call old people’s music, “classic rock.”
But it was the year they tried to cram 60 people into a formal sit-down smorgasbord with several different types of meats and vegetables that stands out as the most memorable. That was the year the oven broke. There was so much uncooked food they didn’t know what to do with it all! The day was saved when someone had the brilliant idea to break out the camping gear. They finished their meal gathered around a bonfire, bathed in stars.
Life in West Marin is all about community. Outside the city limits, they rely on their neighbors quite a bit. Tomales is a close-knit village with a sign at the edge of town declaring the population to be around 400 souls. Deb doesn’t believe it - they must’ve included the town cows in their count. One thing’s for sure, they’re crazy about pies out there - down the road in Valley Ford they’ve auctioned off a single Thanksgiving pie for over $100 to raise money for the local schools.
For a real live taste of country living, this week Deb shares her favorite pie recipe -- one handed down from her grandmother.
· 2 cups flour
· 12 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½ inch chunks
· 1 teaspoon sea salt
· 2 Tablespoons honey
· ½ to ¾ cup ice cold water
· 6 cups fresh rinsed berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries) – remove stems
· ½ cup flour
· ¼ cup honey
· 1 T heavy cream
· Juice and zest of 1 lemon
· Pinch of sea salt
· Sprinkle of cinnamon
· Dash of allspice
· 1 egg beaten well
· ¼ cup caster or baker’s sugar
Make the crust…
1. Mix flour, butter, salt, and honey in a food processor and pulse 4-5 times until butter is the size of small peas. Do not over mix. Add ¼ cup ice water and pulse on and off just until pastry is combined. Continue to add water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together when pressed. On a floured surface, knead a few times and form a ball, divide into two and wrap in plastic for 1 hour or until ready to use.
Now, make the pie…
1. Mix the berries, flour, lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine honey and cream. Slowly add to berry mixture.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Place one crust in a deep-dish pie pan with excess pastry hanging over the sides. Using a ¾”-diameter pastry tip or a wide straw, punch out holes in the remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of pie dishfor steam to escape.
4. Pour the berries into the prepared pie crust. Top with the second, punched out pie crust. Fold edges of top crust under edge of bottom crust and crimp edges. Brush top of pie crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes.
6. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Set pie on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check it after about 25 minutes and cover with a piece of tinfoil if the top crust is getting too brown.
7. Allow pie to rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Pro Tip: Want the best flaky pie crust ever? Deb uses nothing but Straus butter in her pie crust because of its high fat content. Add a touch more than the recipe calls for and your crust will be flaky and crisp.