Mulberry Pie


The good news about this conversation-starter dessert is that the main ingredient is free. The better news (if you have the right attitude) is that usually you have to get it yourself. White, black, and red mulberry trees grow throughout the eastern half of the United States; the red mulberry is a native plant. On red and black varieties, look for full, dark fruit. Rinse well (unless you want the bugs for added protein) by floating in cold water, then draining. When cooked, the flavor is akin to a mellow blueberry.

6 to 7 cups ripe mulberries, washed and drained
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 double pie crust, chilled
Optional garnish: Vanilla ice cream 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the stems of the mulberries with kitchen shears, if desired (the tiny stems will not affect the flavor of the pie). Place about 2 cups of berries into a saucepan and, using a potato masher, crush the berries to release the juices. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until berries start to break down. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Meanwhile, divide the dough into two pieces and shape into a flattened ball. Place 1 piece between two sheets of parchment paper; roll into a circle about 12 inches wide and at least 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment and invert the dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Remove the other sheet of parchment and gently arrange the dough to line the pan. Trim all but 1/2 inch overhang. 

3. Roll out the other piece of dough between 2 sheets of parchement paper and place in the refrigerator until firm. 

4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked fruit with the remaining mulberries, lemon juice and zest, sugar, tapioca, and salt. Spoon into the prepared pie pan. Dot with the butter. Remove the prepared dough from the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of parchment. Invert the dough onto the pie; remove the other sheet of parchment. Fold over the edges and crimp to seal. Cut a hole in the center of the top crust to vent the steam. Cut a hole in the center to vent the steam. (Or, before inverting the top crust over the pie, cut the dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips and arrange over the pie in a lattice pattern.) 

5. Bake the pie for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. (If crust gets too brown, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.) Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Serves 8 to 10.