Makes 8 individual tarts
Twenty pounds – give or take. I’m referring to the amount of blueberries I picked up last weekend, the majority of which made it into our freezer to keep us going until next spring. Some were also turned into a blueberry-rosemary jam, others into an adaptation of this recipe from a few weeks ago and, finally, the remainder were made into the tarts featured in today’s post. There’s a story behind these particular berries, and it began in the summer of 2010. It was that year that I was introduced to a blueberry farmer named Gert Weller.
Five years ago I took a hiatus from my job in health research to pursue a passion related to food. Specifically, I began working for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Given that I studied nutrition in university this departure wasn’t too far-fetched, but trading in my office cubicle for a summer spent outdoors was a drastic – albeit welcomed – change. CSA’s have become very popular in recent years, thanks to increasing awareness about the importance of understanding our food supply and, in particular, supporting local agriculture. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, generally speaking, CSA programs involve individuals of a community buying membership shares in a farm, usually in the early spring. In turn, they receive a weekly allotment of fresh produce throughout the growing season. This allows farmers to have the necessary start-up funds to grow their crops for the season and provides a direct source of fresh, healthy produce to its members – all the while generating a strong sense of community.
The program I worked with was a distinct form of CSA in that it was not one singular farm supplying produce, but several. This generated a particularly unique sense of community among the farmers as well as program participants. While I have since returned to my desk job, the experience that summer was invaluable. I carry it, and the knowledge and relationships I gained from it, forward with me today into my personal and professional life.
The relationships, in particular, were perhaps the most important and it is one of those relationships that brought me to the blueberries featured here today. While I worked with many farmers that summer, there was one fearless leader of them all: Ron Tamis of Rondriso Farms. I have written about Ron previously here, and he and his wife Pam will no doubt be featured in many more posts to come. One day when we needed a last minute addition to our weekly produce box Ron took me and my fellow program manager, Alanna, to Fort Langley where we were introduced to Gert Weller.
Eighty-nine years young, Gert has been farming blueberries at Weller’s Blueberry Farm for 40 years. His blueberry bushes are giants, standing eight feet tall, and you’d never know they were there, nestled in the back of his property completely surrounded by trees. Gert is always happy to have visitors and willing to share his farming story, which had its beginning in Prussia following the second world war. Less than an hour drive from Vancouver, the experience at Gert’s farm is well worth the drive for those living in the area.
No matter where you live, I hope the story of meeting Gert has inspired you to go beyond the grocery store and meet some of your local farmers – blueberry, or otherwise. I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know even just a few of the passionate farmers in our community here in BC. It is the local farmers, and producers that inspire me to share food, and food knowledge, with others. Wherever possible, I try to highlight them here on the blog.
Thank you Gert, Ron, and to all the other farmers out there for doing what you do.
- 2 ½ cups pastry flour (whole grain, white, or a mixture)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ cup ice water
- 1 medium egg
- 4 cups fresh blueberries
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- ¼ cup al-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp dried, culinary lavender*
- 1-2 tbsp butter
- You will need 8 small tart pans, about 4-inches in diameter. If you do not have pans, you can also free form the tarts, as pictured in the image series below.
- This pastry recipe contains a whole egg, which is a-typical. It lends a cookie-like quality and also prevents shrinking. If you are at all timid working with pastry this is a good recipe to start with.
- The pastry recipe above makes enough for 16 tarts. Wrap and freeze leftovers for use within one month.
For the pastry, toss the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Add the cold butter and cut with a pastry cutter until it is well incorporated and you are left with a fine crumb texture.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the cold water and, adding a few tablespoons at a time, begin to incorporate it into the flour mixture gently kneading with your hand. Once the dough has come together, flatten it into a disk and place in the fridge for one hour.
While the dough rests, assemble the filling by tossing the berries, lemon juice, flour and sugar together, reserving the lavender and butter until assembly. Set aside.
When the dough has set, pre-heat the oven to 425ºF (or 400ºF convection bake). Cut the dough in half and roll to a quarter-inch thickness. Roughly cut the dough into 8 rounds, about 6-inches in diameter. Mold to the tart pans, if using, and trim any excess dough.
Once the 8 pieces of dough have been formed, sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of lavender blossoms in the bottom of each dough round. Fill the tarts with half a cup, each, of the blueberry filling. The tarts should be slightly heaping with the filling. Top each tart with a few small dollops of butter and place in the pre-heated oven for 12 minutes.
After 12 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the dough is golden and the blueberries are bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with freshly whipped cream or crème fraiche. Garnish with lemon and additional lavender blossoms if desired.
*In the spirit of highlighting farmers and local producers, the lavender used in this post comes from Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm located on Salt Spring Island, a land of agricultural splendour and just a short ferry ride from Vancouver.