Monday, July 8, 2013

Cooking from the Books with K: Charlotte's Web

Templeton was down there now, rummaging around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crumpled magazine.
How's this?" he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte.
It says 'Crunchy.' 'Crunchy' would be a good word to write in your web."
Just the wrong idea," replied Charlotte. "Couldn't be worse. We don't want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas into his head. We must advertise Wilbur's noble qualities, not his tastiness.” 

I find myself surprised that we have gotten this far along with Cooking from the Books with K without writing about Charlotte's Web. A scan back through my draft blog posts shows that I originally planned to start the series with this book, but somehow, we never posted it.

I remember reading Charlotte's Web with K when she was about 5. We would switch back and forth, reading pages aloud. What I remember clearest was being very worried about the ending. Would she cry? Could I read it without crying if it was my turn? For the record, no and no. 

I asked K for her thoughts on the book:
"Charlotte's Web is about a pig named Wilbur who is the "runt" of the litter. The owner of his litter wants to kill him because he is the smallest and he doesn't think that he will amount to anything.
He is saved by a girl named Fern who takes him to a farm as a pet. For a little while he stays at that farm and becomes friends, I guess, with Fern. The I guess is because I don't think that is really possible, because I don't think a pig can be friends with a person.
Wilbur is lonely when Fern is not there and befriends a spider and a rat. The spider, Charlotte, writes words to help him in her webs. She is doing this to make sure he is not killed for Christmas dinner. Then he is taken to a pig show and wins.
Most people probably know what happens to Charlotte, but I think it is sad, so I don't want to mention it.
My favorite part is about the rope swing because I like to swing. At the farm Wilbur is at, there is a rope swing that the adults think is unsafe, but the kids love it. It made me think of a swing that I went on halfway up Bernal Hill. It was really fun, but a little scary.
In conclusion, I think this is a very good book and think people should read it."

There are many recipe options in the book from farmhouse meals to fair food. Even, I suppose, pork. But, especially given the ripe berries at the farmers market, blueberry pie was our obvious choice.
Not only does the book feature the line: "Just in time for blueberry pie," but pie speaks to me of childhood summers and time spent on my uncle's farm.

K's Blueberry Pie

I like a lot of things about this recipe. If you are intimidated by pie crust, you can use store bought. But if you do make your own crust, in honor of Wilbur, I'd suggest butter over lard.

Trying to decide how to thicken fruit pies can be a source of debate. Easy options include flour, cornstarch or tapioca. In our case, we decided to do something a little bit different and thickened with our homemade lime jelly. The jelly served to thicken and sweeten the berries and also added a lime flavor that we really liked. If you don't have lime jelly on hand, I'd suggest thickening with blueberry jam or whichever version of lemon/lime juice, sugar and thickener you prefer.

K based her crumb topping on this recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle. Because of the sweetness of the lime jelly in the filling, she cut the sugar a bit.


Lime Jelly

1 pie crust (We used this recipe and froze half for a future pie.)

1/2 pint lime jelly
6 cups blueberries

For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 packed cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350. Roll out a single pie crust and place in a pie plate. 
In a bowl, combine your blueberries and lime jelly. Fill the pie with this mixture and set aside.

Adding the crumb topping
For the crumb topping: 
Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes. Add the flour, sugars and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and blend for about one minute. Using your hands, squeeze the mixture into clumps and then break into pieces resembling coarse gravel. 
Cover the blueberry filling evenly with this topping and bake for about an hour. Let cool before serving. 


  1. Love the cooking/literary ties. Blueberry pie reminds me of my father, he just loved blueberry pie, the only kind he would eat. The lime jelly sounds amazing!

    1. We have more, come try it! I like it a lot with Greek yogurt.