It’s summertime in Vermont, and that means blueberries! There are several blueberry bushes in my mother’s yard, but we have never seen many berries on them. I was so surprised when I arrived for my summertime visit and walked around the yard. Those bushes are loaded with plump, juicy berries this year! With all the rain this summer, farmers have had trouble planting corn, but the blueberry growers are thrilled! Our local TVl news station even did a story about blueberries: how the rain has been great for them and how a flock of birds will fly in and devour an entire crop of berries in a few hours.
Have you ever read the children’s classic Blueberries for Sal? My mother read us that book, and to this day I can’t pick blueberries without thinking about that story.
With blueberries ripening it’s the perfect time to bring out the recipe for blueberry tart that we have enjoyed for many years. I remember exactly when we tasted our first tart made by my lifelong friend-like-a-sister, Susie Arnold. (To make a long story short, our parents were friends and got married within months of each other…and we were born within months of each other too…so we say we knew each other before we were born!)
That summer our family rented a cottage on a lake, so that the cousins would have a fun memory of swimming and canoeing and playing cards in the camp. Susie came out to camp for the day and brought baskets of blueberries and a special tart pan. Everyone wanted to know what she was planning. She was excited to bake this amazing blueberry tart recipe she had discovered. In fact, she made several tarts, and then we all started making tarts. We all bought tart pans with removable bottoms just so we could make Susie’s recipe. Every summer since then this blueberry tart has reminded us of the summer at the lake, so we call it “Susie’s Blueberry Tart”.
For the crust, start with one stick of butter. When I’m in Vermont, I like to use Cabot butter because it’s made right here in Vermont. Family farms with the highest quality milk are responsible for this butter. The butter needs to be cold for this recipe. I cut the stick of butter into long thin slices, then turn it 90 degrees and cut those long thin slices again. Last I cut thin slices starting on one end of the butter stick to get tiny cubes of cold butter. Combine 1 cup of all purpose flour, 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 1/s teaspoon of salt and then cut in the butter. (I couldn’t find my mother’s pastry cutter, so I used a fork.) Once you get the butter and flour to the point that it’s crumbly, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and stir it in. This will help the dough to hold together better. Don’t try to get it mixed up into a uniform dough…just mix it enough so you can press it into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Before baking, fill the tart shell with 1 pint of fresh blueberries in a single layer. Then combine 2/3 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle that evenly over the blueberries. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes. The crust will be brown and the berries will be bubbly when it’s ready to take out.
When the tart comes out of the oven, gently press a pint of blueberries in a single layer onto the top of the baked berries. Let the tart cool completely. Remove the tart from the pan (remember that removable bottom?)…cut into wedges and serve with good vanilla ice cream. If there is any left over, store it in the fridge…but at our house there is rarely any left.
By the way, you can do this with raspberries too…or do a layer of blueberries AND a layer of raspberries. The crust is just slightly sweet and delicate…the slightly cinnamon-y baked fruit with fresh berries on top lends lip-smacking tartness to the luscious vanilla ice cream. If you make this once, you’ll be making it again and again!