This summer, the three of us (Tove, Lia and Marisa) all took a trip to the beautiful north of Sweden, to a place called Piteå, to live in a summer house in the woods for a while, with no electricity or hot water. We mostly spent our time eating lots of food, lying on the beach, and jumping in and out of the sauna (boiling hot) and the sea (freezing cold). We made a sort of pact (well two of us did at least…) to not go on the internet or check our phones (as much as usual).
Turns out that if you stop checking facebook for a week, you suddenly have loads more free time, so on our last day, having read all our books, and played all the board games, we decided to go on an adventure into the woods, to pick some blueberries. This is us.
So, maybe we should explain: Sweden is full of blueberries. They’re everywhere. It’s crazy. They grow wild in forests and at the sides of roads, and officially, anyone is allowed to pick them wherever they find them, even if it’s in someone else’s garden, due to the ancient Swedish tradition called allemansrätten (“every man’s right”) which allows you to forage for food and flowers anywhere, as long as you don’t destroy anything, or leave any mess. It’s an amazing, generously-spirited old tradition, and one that the Swedes cherish. And with a huge 65% of the country covered in forest, there are a lot of opportunities to try it out.
But let’s get one thing straight first of all, all of the blueberries in Sweden aren’t actually blueberries. The Swedish name for them, “blåbär” means “blue berries”, but in actual fact they’re a completely different thing. The English name for these wild Swedish “blue berries” is actually “bilberries”. Confused? We were too. But it doesn’t matter, because they look and taste just as delicious as blueberries, and can be eaten in just the same way.
Bilberries are smaller and darker, and unlike blueberries, they’re not whitish-green inside, but dark blue. When they’re ripe, they’re plumper and squishier too, so take care when handling them because they’ll soon cover you with their deep, dark blue juice. For evidence of that fact, this is what we looked like when we got back from our hike.
The sun was shining went we went out for our blueberry/bilberry picking hike, but we had to cover up to protect ourselves (or at least attempt it) from the huge swarms of mosquitoes that hang around in Swedish woods.
When we got back to town and to the internet, we decided to use our freshly collected wild blueberries to make a classic Swedish blåbärspaj, or blueberry pie. We replaced the wheat flour in the original recipe with a mixture of oat and coconut flour, just because it was raining outside and we didn’t fancy going to the supermarket, but the coconut flour really added a nice sweet flavour to the pastry, and we’d recommend using the same mixture of special flours if you can find them. It was so sweet in fact, we could have even reduced the amount of sugar we used. Maybe we’ll try that next time.
The rest of the recipe is super simple, just using ingredients that you probably already have at home – and blueberries, of course. It doesn’t take more than about an hour to prepare, and you only need one bowl and one baking dish. Picking the blueberries – without getting stung in the eyes by mosquitoes – was definitely the hardest part.
For the pastry base:
- 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1/2 cup coconut flour (if you can’t find these special flours and you don’t want to make the recipe gluten-free, just substitute these two half cups for 1 cup of normal wheat flour)
- 1/3 cup sugar (we used Swedish “pearl sugar”, just caster sugar is also fine)
- half a teaspoon baking powder
- 150 g butter
- 2 tablespoons water
For the topping:
- about 3 cups (use more for extra deliciousness) of fresh (or frozen) blueberries
- 1/2 cup sugar (here again we used pearl sugar, but the original recipe said to use granulated)
1. Mix together flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Grease the bottom of a round baking dish, about 18-20 cm in diameter.
2. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl with the flour mixture. Pour in the water.
3. Knead the butter into the flour mixture to create a dough. Let it stand in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or the in the freezer for 5.
4. Cut the dough in two and press half of it out into the bottom of the round baking dish.
5. Bake the pie base in the middle of the oven at 175 ° C for about 8 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and cover the base with the blueberries (it doesn’t matter whether they’re fresh or frozen).
7. Sprinkle on the sugar.
8. Use the rest of the dough to make a sort of “lid” for the pie. We just sprinkled chunks of dough on top of the blueberries to make a sort of crumble topping.
9. Bake pie in the oven at 175 °C for about 20 minutes.
10. Serve and eat!