Juneberries, also called serviceberries, are one of the first fruits to ripen each year. They are juicy and enjoyable raw…but save some for baking because they also make fantastic pie! Juneberries are plants in the Amelanchier genus. They are tall shrubs or small trees that thrive in full to partial sunlight. They grow wild in open woodlands and lakesides, but are also frequently planted by landscapers in city parks.
Ripe juneberries look like blueberries growing on a tree - they even have the 5-pointed crown on one end that blueberries have. As the berries ripen they turn from green to red and eventually dark purple. A couple of months before the berries appear, the flowers put on quite a show. They have 5 strap-like white petals and numerous stamens at their centers. Amelanchier flowers bloom before any of the leaves emerge, but are often still on the branches even once the alternate, oval leaves unfurl. Those leaves have fine teeth along their edges, thin leafstalks, and turn a beautiful golden-amber color in the fall. Juneberries have gray bark that is usually smooth but sometimes develops shallow grooves as the plants mature.
Picking juneberry fruit in no way harms the parent tree. The berries don’t all ripen at the same time, so expect the harvest to last for two or three weeks. Juneberries ripen sometime between late spring and early summer.
Anytime from when they first turn red all the way through their fully ripe, deep purple stage juneberries are delicious raw. They freeze well, and are terrific in pies, jam, and pancakes. Their juicy pulp is mild and sweet, but it’s the tiny seeds that complete juneberry’s flavor: they have a light almond taste.
You can use fresh or frozen juneberries in this recipe. If you use frozen ones, measure them while they are still frozen but then thaw them before proceeding with the recipe.
1. Roll out one half of the pie dough and lay it in an 8-inch pie pan.
2. In a large bowl, combine the juneberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, spices and salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 425F. Spoon the filling into the crust-lined pie pan. Dot the filling with the butter.
4. Cover with the second crust or create a crisscross lattice. Fold the overhang of the bottom crust over the edges of the top crust. Trim off any excess and crimp with your fingers or press with the tines of a fork to seal the edges of the crusts.
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and loosely wrap the outer edge of the crust in aluminum foil to prevent it from burning. Return the pie to the oven and bake it for another 30 minutes.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.
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