Just Dessert: Wild blueberry pie at the Old Creamery Co-op

  • A slice of wild blueberry pie from the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington. GAZETTE STAFF/LISA SPEAR

  • A slice of wild blueberry pie from the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington GAZETTE STAFF/LISA SPEAR

Staff Writer
Published: 8/26/2016 4:44:32 PM

Editor’s note: In this monthly column writer Lisa Spear indulges her sweet tooth by sampling desserts made at area restaurants.

Nothing beats wild blueberries, nature’s gift to the taste buds.

Less than half the size of cultivated blueberries, the wild variety packs twice the flavor. After indulging in a bowlful, I’m perfectly happy. Unless, of course, there’s the possibility of baking them into a pie.

Pie is at its best when it serves as a vessel for a mountain of fruit. While I cannot resist the temptation of a well-crafted apple pie or a peach cobbler, my palate has a special soft spot for blueberries.

I haven’t yet found a better baker to satisfy this desire than Peri Kelly, 63, who bakes wild blueberries harvested in Maine into pies at the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington.

So, if you are a blueberry fanatic like me, it’s not a bad idea to make the drive out to Cummington to peruse the old timey grocery store on Route 9, also known as Berkshire Trail, and grab a slice while blueberries are in season.

Every week Kelly bakes at least 25 pies of all varieties, peach, apple, maple pecan, tart cherry, raspberry, apple depending on the supply of ingredients. By the end of the week most of them are gone.

She can make pretty much anything upon request.

For my favorite, the blueberries, glossy with a coat of sugar, are plopped into a butter-based crust rolled out by hand in the back of the kitchen. The crust is thin, just enough to keep the berries from escaping.

Kelly has spent 40 hours a week for nearly 18 years baking in this kitchen. She has the burn scars running across her arms from the hot oven to prove it. After all these years, baking it still fun, she says, and she enjoys spreading joy through food.

“I’m happy when people like them, I’m really happy when people like them, but I don’t like tooting my own horn” she said. “I’m shy about the pies.”

While baking for about an hour, the blueberries become soft and gooey, turning a rich shade of purple.

A handmade streusel — a mixture of flour, butter and sugar — forms a light and crumbly top for the pie. As a final touch, Kelly dusts it with powdered sugar, like tiny snow peaks on a pastry mountain.

“It’s only got, like, three ingredients in it, so you can’t go wrong,” said Kelly. 

While she is modest about the popularity of her pies, she will admit that once they are in the display case, they don’t last long.

People come from as far as Boston and New York City, to snatch up these pies, she says.

 Every so often customers will poke their heads behind the cash register to compliment her.

A mostly self-taught baker, Kelly learned the basics of cooking growing up in her Swedish grandmother’s kitchen in Brooklyn. Every year, she remembers, her grandma baked her a birthday cake. Sometimes Kelly would watch her create spritz cookies or meringues. “She was a great baker and she inspired me,” said Kelly.

Now, at the Old Creamery, she sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the demand for her baked goods. To make sure they don’t run short on its supply, the co-op put in place a rule that customers who want to buy more than three pies must call in advance.

“This time of year the blueberry pie is very popular,” Kelly said. The grocery also tends to sell lots of blueberry banana bread, which is available all year long. Peach pies are also in demand in the summer. In the fall, the apple pie’s popularity spikes. 

The dessert options at the Old Creamery Co-op are often seasonal.

If you come for blueberry pie, I would suggest arriving around breakfast time and washing a slice down with coffee or taking a whole pie home to stash away for a bedtime snack.

Since there is only a bit of sugar added, this pie relies on the natural sweetness of the berries, so there is no sugar high. The pie sits surprisingly light in your stomach; it takes some self-control to stop at one piece.

Have you discovered a confection at a local eatery that makes you want to skip the main course?

Email Lisa Spear at Lspear@gazettenet.com.

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