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#28 : JumbleBerry "Birthday" Tart

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

The basement freezer to the rescue...

Decades ago, two of the first friends we made after moving to Greenport were Stanley and his husband Everett. (Everett has left us but the memories of him and his raunchy jokes have not!) They had us over to their house one night for dinner and instead of the usual ubiquitous pie from Briermere (the local farm stand with "the best" pies out here, or so many claim) Stanley brought out a homemade pie with a fire-engine red filling. It was a red currant pie, made from the currants grown on the bushes in their yard. I had never heard of red currants and was intrigued; with my first bite of pie I knew that my future held growing and harvesting red currants from my own bushes...and this came to pass almost immediately.

One advantage to growing red currants became obvious immediately. Despite their vivid red color, the currants are completely ignored by all the creatures (deer, rabbits and birds) that live in the adjoining vacant lot...unlike raspberries, which I grew in the same area and eventually pulled out because I never got any - all the critters ate them. The currants are extremely tart, which could explain why they are left alone.

The currants ripen at about the same time as my sour cherries, so I have a busy time trying to harvest everything all at once. This year I didn't get many red currants (in the bowl on the left along with a few black currants). I'm not sure why. Luckily, I had a bumper crop last year and still had a couple of ZipLoc bags in the freezer (those are seen thawing on the bowl on the right) to augment this year's small crop. Jeff is partial to a jumble berry pie (a pie combining blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, and, of course, the red currants) and so this usually becomes his annual "birthday pie."

I decided to use the tart pan rather than the usual pie pan as it looked a little fancier (it was a birthday tart, after all.) Here I have rolled out the crust for pre-baking. The dough was a little soft (it was hot in the kitchen) so I used the trick of rolling it around the rolling pin to lift it up and roll it gently into the tart pan.

While the crust was baking, I combined the berries with sugar and kirsch. The recipe calls for a full cup and a half of sugar which seemed too much. But, knowing that the red currants are extremely tart, I did use a full cup of sugar, and set the berries aside to drain a bit.

The currants have plenty of pectin, but I still drained the excess liquid and added three tablespoons of ground tapioca to prevent the filling from being too soupy. You can see there was a lot of liquid!

I rolled out more pie dough and cut out star shapes with a cookie cutter. The filling went into the pre-baked bottom crust, and I topped the filling with the stars that I brushed with cream to help them brown, and then sprinkled turbinado sugar on top before baking the tart.

Since I had some dough left, I used my heart-shaped pie pan to make a small tart. Even after that, I still had some dough left, so I borrowed a trick I'd just come across where you make a mini tartlet inside the top ring of a Mason jar.

I set the tart aside to cool. Many times during the day, we walked over just to take a big sniff of the tantalizing tart.

Dinner was gambas al ajillo, garlic shrimp over basmati rice - a favorite.

Afterward I whipped up some heavy cream, and the pie was ready to be served.

The Verdict: Perfect for a birthday...or every day.

I know I say this a lot, but this may be our favorite tart - it's the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. The mixed berries add complexity to the filling, and the crust was perfectly crispy and crunchy, even the next day. I'm happy that we still have more red currants in the freezer, as this tart was such a hit that I'll be making it again soon - long before Jeff's next birthday.

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