In this video we use foraged bilberries to make a classic Winberry Pie. This activity encourages connection with your local natural surroundings and plants and therefore benefits you and your family's wellbeing. Enjoy doing this activity alone or with your wonderful family to help gather these delicious berries. Ensure when foraging that you have identified the plant and berry correctly, use more than once source, and that you collect from pesticide and pet fouling free areas.
Bilberries are a delicious slightly tart berry if picked fresh and eaten as a snack whilst walking but are really delicious cooked up in a pie. Bilberries in the UK are usually a low growing shrub, the European Blueberry - Vaccinium myrtillus, to be found on moors and growing wild on the hillsides from the mid July to mid September depending on the weather. They grow mostly in the North and West of England, although not exclusively, and are referred to in the North as winberries. This does mean that this activity may not reach all, although the recipe will work with blueberries too but with a different final taste.
Be prepared for the deep blue-purple giveaway fingers and tongue - they have a rich colour and a strong ability to dye things eg fabric. Bilberries are also full of antioxidants that are good for your health and are thought to be be good for the eyes.
Make the most of the bilberry season if you have a source close to you and freeze some for future baking endeavours.
See below for basic pastry recipe and fruit filling recipe, or use shop bought. Instructions are also below too.
Whilst using this nature activity to inspire learning, know you are helping you and your family's wellbeing like this:
1) Get Active - Get moving by going for a walk in an area where you are able to source bilberries from. This could even involve planning a trip. Take into mind that harvesting bilberries takes quite some time.
2) Keep Learning - Learn not only about the bilberry before you set off and how to identify it on site but why not also consider the local geography of the area you intend to walk in in order to forage for the bilberries.
3) Be Mindful - Clearly not all berries are edible, and in fact many are poisonous to us however lovely they may look. Please, if in doubt about a plant - do not taste to find out. Use an app to help you identify correctly but plan ahead to know what it is that you are looking for. Many plants have variations so what might look like one plant may in fact be something else. Always double and triple check before eating.
4) Practice Kindness -Remind yourselves and family that these berries are not there for us only, they are a source of food for many other insects and wildlife too. The bushes also provide shelter and home to insects and wildlife too. Only take what you need.
5) Think Community - Share your recipes, tips, where to look for them and beautiful outcomes in the comments below.
This recipe made enough to fill an approx 5inch diameter x 2inch deep pie dish with some extra bilberry mix aside for serving with. Use a tin with a lift out base if you hope to serve and stand the pie out of it's baking tin.
You can also serve with single cream, custard or ice-cream of your choice if you want.
Serves 2-3 people in our house but that might depend on how much of it you want.
Heat oven to 190 degrees C
Basic Pastry Recipe:
If using shop bought shortcrust pastry follow the instructions on the pack or to make your own:
100ml Plain Flour of choice + some extra for rolling out
35ml vegetable oil of choice NB olive oil is better for savoury pastry
Little pinch of salt
2-3tbsp (30-45ml) of cold water
Milk of choice for glazing the top
Optional: 1 tsp sugar - makes a sweeter pastry
Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly (flour, salt, sugar- if adding) and then add the oil and rub into a crumbly mixture, finally add the water, add 2tbsp and then if required you can add the last one until the ingredients bind together in your hands to make a ball of pastry.
Bilberry Fruit Filling:
250g bilberries (if you are unable to forage this many you can also add apple or blueberry to the mix to make up the amounts)
80g caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
3 heaped teaspoons of cornflour
Remove any leaves or stalks that remain post picking and then wash your bilberries thoroughly.
Mix the bilberries with the sugar, cornflour and lemon juice and then sit to the side while you work with your pastry.
Flour your surfaces and roll the pastry out, keep turning over to prevent it sticking to the surface and re-flour underneath as required.
Once rolled out nicely - check by the shape of your tin that you have enough to line your tin with some excess to create your lattice top (roughly half for each).
Mark out for your tin shape and use a knife to cut the shape out slightly larger than you have marked -roll remains pastry back in to a ball.
Place the pastry into a lightly greased tin and push into place, use any of the excess to fill any gaps.
Then use a fork to prick the base and press a fork end around the top trim for extra hold.
Roll out remaining pastry on a floured surface and use a knife to cut into strips for a lattice pattern or simply cut a flat top pie piece to fit your tin (if the latter remember to create a slit in the top of the pastry to let the steam out whilst cooking).
Take your prepared bilberry mix filling and spoon into your pastry lined tin. Keep a spoon or two of the mixture aside for serving if you want.
Place the lid on your pie or create the lattice effect by attaching the strips of pastry along the top of the pie dish and then then others to weave through over and under the ones along the top. Attach the ends and press with a fork for extra hold whilst cooking.
Cook in the oven for 35-40mins or until the pastry is nicely browned.
TOP TIP - Place a baking tray with greaseproof below your pie in the oven to catch any filling that may bubble over like sticky boiled fruit sweets to help keep your oven clean!