This year’s Fourth of July celebration has more meaning for me because I’ll be heading to Philadelphia later this month. I will be attending the Democratic National Convention as a guest, and in my free time I’ll be able to visit some meaningful sites, both historically and personally.
Capt. Samuel Morris – several greats ago on my mother’s side – was second lieutenant of the Light Horse of the City of Philadelphia (later became the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary) and crossed the Delaware with Gen. George Washington, where he fought in the battle of Trenton in December 1776. He also fought in the battles of Princeton, Brandywine and Germantown. A Quaker, he was “read out” (kicked out) for his military service, but continued to practice as Free Quakers, a group of about 200 Quakers who felt that the Revolution was too great to ignore (USHistory.org) and founded their own meeting house in Philadelphia.
This piece of American history has been in our family home for decades, but because it has become more significant to me this year because of the DNC being in Philadelphia this year and because I’ve been doing research on my mother’s family as part of the trip.
Capt. Sam, as he was known, apparently was quite the life of the party, having served as governor of the Schuylkill Fishing Company for much of his life (apparently when not fighting the British) and in the family’s brewing business.
This portrait doesn’t exactly show a cheery man, but here he is:
The Morris family, Quakers, came to the United States in the late 1600s after hearing about William Penn’s signed charter to settle lands in Pennsylvania. The family’s property eventually was inherited by my great-grandmother, Marguerite (aka Nanny). Her husband published a book that contains a copy of Penn’s original charter of the land, which became known as Green Hill Farms. The property was sold in the 1950s after she became a widow. Part is now Philadelphia Friends Academy.
So I’ll be celebrating this Independence Day with this history lesson in mind, while also getting ready to uncover and witness more in Philadelphia later this month.
In between the research, I did manage to find a pie recipe to celebrate the Fourth in style. It’s very simple. The decorations are limited only by your skill with a can of whipped cream (do buy the real stuff, please).
The blueberries are cooked only for a couple of minutes, allowing the fresh flavor of the berry to dominate the flavor of the pie. Combined with a graham cracker crust, it has a nice texture to contrast with the berries.
Red, White and Blueberry Pie
11 graham crackers (2 1/2 x 5 inch boards), broken into pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
6 to 7 cups blueberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, about 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg (about 6 to 8 scrapes of a nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the crust, in a food processor, pulse graham crackers until the size of pebbles. Add melted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla bean paste (optional). Pulse until combined. Press into the bottom of a tart pan or a 10-inch pie plate.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
To make the filling, place blueberries in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Combine orange juice and corn starch. Add to pan with blueberries, along with sugar, orange zest and salt. Bring to a simmer (just below a boil) and stir until thickened, just a minute or 3. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour into cooled crust.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (If you make this first thing in the morning, it will be perfect by picnic time).
Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and berries.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Happy July Fourth