Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy Endings: Elderberry Pie

Sometimes you really need a happy ending. You find yourself on a bad date or with a dentist's drill in your mouth doing overtime. Or you become entangled in a messy conflict and the skies are all cloudy and gray either outside or in your heart. What to do? Well, when we can keep an overactive ego in check or when we are gifted with that wonderful equalizer, perspective, we just enjoy the journey knowing that this is what it is all about. Sometimes, though, being human, we just bear down and hope for a surprising positive ending. I don't know about you but I seem to need a healthy dose of "it was all worth it" benedictions to keep me keeping on. So, even when the happy ending isn't there, I tend to invent it. You might know what I mean. Well, I learned a lot... Someday, this will be a great story... Better to have loved and lost... The thing is, redemption is a powerful thing. All my favorite stories, fiction and non-fiction, have a common thread. That thread is a theme about the power of the human spirit rising above the muck and mire of difficult times and making her own happy ending.

This is what I am thinking about today and it relates to what I was thinking about last week when I made the elderberry pie. This pie was recommended by the Muellers of North Newton. They even offered their own homegrown elderberries. I was a bit worried about this undertaking simply because I hadn't ever made one. Berneil kindly shared her baking tips and the recipe below reflects her adapted instructions as I carried them out to the best of my understanding. So, in my own mostly Mennonite kitchen, I baked this pie and pulled it from the oven. It looked a fright. I got the crust a bit too brown and it was really messy. I left it to cool on the stovetop. I asked my husband after a period of heavy silence. "Did you see my pie?" "Yes, he replied, "but I was kind of afraid to say anything. Might this be a redo?" I was afraid so. But alas, it cooled and settled down a bit and I even started to think the mostly filling covered crust and crumb topping looked good that way. I took a bite and it was (surprise) delicious. It was tangy but sweet and I loved the small crunchiness of the elderberries. Very good pie and for sure one I want to make again. In fact, every July, when the elderberries are plentiful, I want to make an elderberry pie. To celebrate happy endings.

Elderberry Pie

2 1/2 cups elderberrries
3/4 cup sugar
2 T flour
1/8 tsp salt
3 T lemon juice

Pie pastry for 9 inch crust

Crumb Topping
4 T flour
3 T sugar
2 T butter

Line a pie pan with pastry. Prebake at 425 for 8 minutes. Mix filling ingredients together and bring to a boil in a saucepan. (I let it cook for about 5 minutes or so). Pour cooked filling into prebaked crust. Mix crumb topping with two knifes until small crumbs are formed. Bake at 425 for another 10 minutes and then turn down the oven to 350 until the pie begins spilling over.This requires that you check it periodically. My pie did runneth over after 8 minutes I think. Remove from the oven and cool.

Happy Endings,


  1. I remember going elderberry-picking on a deserted country road with my mom, and an aunt with 4 or 5 cousins. The sand plums were ripe about the same time. Mmmmm, elderberry or sand plum jam and elderberry pie with or without rhubarb. Thanks for the memories.

    1. Thanks for your recipe, it was fun to find. I added a bit of rhubarb to mine and because I was making chevre that day I added some bits of it to the crumble and it was pretty fantastic. I am making it this Thanksgiving for my 87 year old grandma, she said she hasn't had elderberry pie since she was a little girl.

  2. Was I happy to find this on the internet! I'm away from home, found some elderberries which I picked, and wanted to make a pie. But I did not have my recipe with me. And here was my very own, adapted from "The Mennonite Community Cookbook."
    Berneil Rupp Mueller

  3. We live in NE Ohio and I remember the wild elderberries that grew in the field across the road from my childhood home. Several years back I discovered that one can purchase elderberry "bushes" from some nursery catalogues. I bought a few different varieties to try. We've been enjoying elderberry pies ever since! They propagate themselves over the years. Just make sure they are planted where they will have plenty of water.