Sharing the bounty of summer with pies and fruit preserves

It’s always been our family’s custom to leave each other’s homes after a party with a plate of food. I always assumed it was a Jewish thing. And it’s the same with my in-laws. We never leave empty-handed — whether it’s a loaf of my father-in-law’s freshly baked bread, leftovers or a significant piece of my husband’s past, like his third grade report card.

Especially during the summer months, when our gardens and orchards are producing like mad, it’s wonderful to share the bounty. In our case, although I’m living at Camp Tawonga near Yosemite for the summer, our 12 green bean plants are producing several pounds a week, and my husband brings them up to camp to distribute to everyone. Another friend, Judy Blum, makes delicious plum preserves from her garden in Moraga and shares this treat as well.

Whether you’re passing along a gift from the kitchen or the garden, a souvenir of the summer, coming from the heart, is always welcome.

Fresh Plum Preserves | Makes 1 quart

1 1/2 lbs. sugar
2 cups water
2 lbs. ripe plums, pitted and cut into quarters

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy pot. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the plums, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the mixture is fairly thick. Raise the heat slightly and let cook for 15 more minutes. Be careful not to burn the preserves.

Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water, rinse, sterilize (see directions) and keep hot until ready to use. Wash flat lids, place in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and let them sit in the pan, off the heat, for at least 5 minutes, until ready for use.

When the temperature of the fruit reaches 220 degrees, remove it from the heat, skim off any surface foam and ladle the preserves into the hot, dry, sterilized jars. Fill to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Cover, seal, wipe rims clean with a damp cloth, and invert jars immediately for 5 minutes to ensure that they seal, or process, following jar manufacturer’s directions. Store preserves in a cool, dry place.

To sterilize jars: After washing and rinsing, put jars and bands in a large pot, cover with hot water and bring water to a boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let jars and bands stand in the hot water. Just before filling, turn jars and bands upside down on a clean, cotton towel to dry and drain. To avoid touching rubber seals, handle with tongs. Fill jars while they are still hot.

Basic Pie Dough | Makes 9-inch crust

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. shortening
6-8 Tbs. cold water<p?

Combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water 1 Tbs. at a time until the dough begins to

gather together. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.

Blueberry Lattice Pie | Serves 8-10

1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
zest of 1 lemon, chopped
5 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, drained and picked over
Basic Pie Dough (see above)
1 Tbs. butter
1 egg, beaten

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, zest and blueberries, and toss gently to coat the berries.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one ball of dough out into a circle slightly larger than the pie plate. Transfer the dough onto the pie plate with the rolling pin, easing the dough into the plate. Trim the edge of the dough 1/2 inch larger than the plate. Roll out remaining dough into another circle slightly larger than the plate. With a pastry wheel, cut the dough into 3/4-inch strips for the lattice.

Fill pie with blueberries and dot with butter. Place lattice strips over filling, weaving them or laying them across each other at right angles. Trim lattice to match the bottom dough. Tuck overhanging portion of dough under and press gently together. Crimp dough around the edges.

Brush pastry with beaten egg and bake the pie for 10 minutes in a preheated 425-degree oven. Lower the oven to 350 degrees and continue to bake the pie for 45 minutes more, until crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. Cool 1 hour before serving.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional.

Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to J. or to [email protected].