Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blueberry Plum Pie and a Pilgrimage to Oregon Fruit

I glanced back at the low gray building with sadness and a bit of envy. For once, I found something worth trading my freedom for. A lifetime of hard work, friendship, fruit and being part of the lives of a group of intelligent women who share their days together.

I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself here. There is a story here, on their side and on mine.

Since 1935 a small company called Oregon Fruit has canned our best and most beautiful northwestern fruits. The labels were almost apologetic at first, as they believed processed fruit could never live up to the standards of fresh. They were wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Most of us Oregon Fruit fans know this as soon as we open a can. We look at 75 years of perfection.

“These are the best cherries in the world”, my mom would exclaim every year when she made her special cherry pies. My small mother seemed so tall then as I stretched high on my toes to peer over the counter to watch the magical pie making process. The highlight of our holidays, we waited for those pies for agonizing hours. The thickened cherry syrup was always the best part and I’d impolitely lick it off my plate every time. Now I know it’s the syrup in the cans my mother was after. Syrup that makes pies so perfect. I still can’t make a cherry pie like hers, but I’m getting closer.

My husband, daughter and I arrived in our RV, Otto the Travel Box, bright and early that late June morning. We’d slept at a rest stop just so we could get to the factory in time to meet my wonderful friend Terri and tour this sacred place. For me a passage, for Terri and friends, another day at work. Although this time, I got to finally meet my new forever friend.

Terri wrote to me many months ago when I posted a plum pie. I read her message stunned. How could someone from my favorite company find me? Even better how could they find me, make friends with me, invite me to Oregon and offer me my favorite fruit? All I can figure is I must have done something right in the world.

When I entered the building, Terri ran out and hugged me. I adored her at once of course, and she showed me to the welcome sign they made just for me. Terri then led me around and introduced me to everyone, including JoEllen, who took Jesse and I on our tour. Clara not being twelve yet, got to stay behind and play with Terri. I don’t think she minded too much, although she can’t wait to see the place when she’s older.

JoEllen was amazing, fun and with this spirit of knowledge we got to ask her everything from history details, to the old wood floors, to the canning and recycling process and then she proudly took us to see the giant osprey nest just outside the far building. She told us about the baby birds’ first flight fiasco and safe return. Ospreys being a favorite of mine, I took this as an omen.

There is so much more too. I met Ardis relabeling cans to go to food banks and discount stores. She’s a hoot! What I didn’t realize is if the cans don’t weigh quite enough they get relabeled and sent to people who can use them under a different name. Nothing is ever wasted.

Dressing up in sanitary gear, we finally entered the processing building. Workers lined the place making sure everything was perfect and clean before processed into their new product called Berry Up, created by JoEllen herself. Fruit syrup with fruit bits to be used in drinks. It smelled so good in there. Clean and fragrant with strawberries. I just wish we could buy the stuff; right now it’s only being used in restaurants because of the high price to put it on grocery shelves. Oregon Fruit being a small factory cannot afford to sell it to us as of yet. I hope someday they will. I have one little bottle left I’m hoarding in my freezer.

Speaking of hoarding, I stock Oregon Fruit Plums like I’m in a WWII rationing situation. They’re my favorite in the world, as the cherries are my mothers. It’s gotten so bad, I only give pies with Oregon Fruit Plums to the people who will share a piece with me!

I suppose my life is here in Idaho, but there are days I wish things were different. Days I wish I could have chosen to live and work in Salem, Oregon in a little privately owned fruit factory where turnover is nearly nonexistent and people take care of each other. The place where processed fruit is worthy of the best pies.

Blueberry Plum Pie Printer Version

Oregon Fruit’s canned plums perfume this blueberry pie with rich fragrant syrup and beautiful soft ripe plums. If you think canned fruit is substandard, you’ve never tried Oregon Fruit. As a small company, they only process absolutely perfect fruit, or they won’t can it at all.

1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) Oregon Fruit Whole Purple Plums in Heavy Syrup
3 cups (1 pound) blueberries
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 double pie crust
2 tablespoons butter

1. Move the oven rack to the lower quarter of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the egg white and water, set aside.

2. Mix together the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Do not skip this step or you’ll have starch lumps.

3. Drain the plum syrup into a large bowl. Remove the plums from the can and take out the pits. Chop the plums and add to the bowl. Add the blueberries, white vinegar, almond extract, vanilla extract and sugar mixture. Toss together and set aside.

4. Place a dough in a 9” Pyrex pie dish. Brush with egg wash. Pour in the fruit and dot with butter. Top with the other dough and crimp and seal pie. Brush the top with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and cut vents in the top.

5. Bake pie for 30 minute. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, cover with a pie shield and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until pie is bubbly and bottom crust is golden. Cool for several hours before serving.

Recipe and photographs by Laura Flowers.


Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

Wow this sounds like such a great experience and all the people there seem really great. Your pie looks great, too.

Federica Simoni said...

che bella esperienza...e che torta meravigliosa!!complimenti!!ciao!!

Federica Simoni said...

che bella esperienza...e che torta meravigliosa!!complimenti!!ciao!!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Hi Laura - What a great post!!! I loved reading every word. I'm going to have to pick up a few cans of those plums. Can't wait.


Fresh Local and Best said...

Of course they found you Laura! You're fabulous! I'm excited about learning about the Oregon fruit company, and what fun to have been able to see the facilities! Your pie looks gorgeous, and must taste amazing.

jabreb said...

Wonderful post....thanks for the recipe for plum pie..I do have access to canned Oregon was very interesting to learn about the company. "Thanks" to the ladies at Oregon Fruit for all your hard work/efforts - it's great that this company has endured throughout the years and apparently still going strong. Rock on ladies!

Monet said...

This was a delight to read (as always). But I really enjoyed learning about this small company on the West Coast...I'm such a sucker for places and companies like this. I only wish I could get my hands on some of this fruit! Thanks for sharing a wonderful pie recipe too. I love blueberry pie, but I've never thought of plums!

The Southern Cookbook said...

Hi Laura, It was awesome that you got to take a tour through the whole plant like that. I could just imagine how those purple plums taste! Oh, how I wish I could get a hold of some of that fruit. The pie looks awesome. I know it had to taste excellent! Great post :)

Veronica said...

What a wonderful story! I love Oregon canned fruit too and use their cherries exclusively although I have to admit I used a generic brand to make the plum pie that originally got you in contact with Terri. That plum pie rocks, by the way. I think I left you a comment, but it deserves two. It's sooo good. I'm so glad you got to meet some of the ladies that work there and take a tour of your beloved canned fruit factory! Yay!

Cyndy said...

Love the story behind the product, thank you Laura. they do have superior product and I can get it here too.

Amber said...

What an awesome post! I've never tried the Oregon Fruit brand, but I've seen it. I will have to try it now. Your visit sounds amazing!!!

Scott said...

Hurray for Oregon Fruit! Of course you already know that they are also one of my favorite companies (and we've enjoyed many an Oregon Fruit pie together)...but I still wanted to praise them publicly. I'm still amazed that fruit in a can is often times better quality than the fresh fruit available locally.

Cooking in Mexico said...

I know Oregon Fruit well. It costs about $8 a can in Mexico, so I have to walk by without adding it to my cart. We make do with mangoes, and wait until the next visit north of the border to bake a cherry pie.


Cristie said...

I'll never look at Oregon Fruit the same again. Thanks for the genuine and educational post. I loved it.

Queen of Tarts said...

Hi Laura,

Thank you so much for your kind words. It sounds like you had a great time and I wish I could have been there to meet you too. From the looks and sound of things you are just part of our OFP family now! I hope you won't mind if I use your recipe on our blog as well at Also, if any of your many fans want to find out where to buy Oregon Fruit, they can do that at Thanks so much for all you do!
Erin Johansen, aka The Queen of Tarts

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Erin,

Nice to meet you finally! Sure go ahead and use this recipe, just please give me credit.



FOODESSA said...

Your post was incredibly warm and appreciately thoughtful. I've always loved these foodie tours where you recognize that the strength and quality of the product is backed by a lot of passion, dedication and hard work.

Laura...I just came from reading Christine's meeting up with you in NYC...and now I'm here realizing that there are no coincidances. Without going into my personal health issues...I truly related to you. Mom survived a terribly complex ovarian cancer and I witnessed every breath she took to fight it. She's now doing very well...she's in her 4th year since. I'm glad that Electrolux had invited you to participate in something that is so important to you. Awareness is key.

Your site is fabulous and I'll certainly find the time to be back ;o)

Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

Jessica said...

Thanks for this awesome post! For the record, I promise to NEVER, NEVER,EVER buy anything but Oregon fruit for my pies! Even if it costs more than another kind.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it nice when you find a comapny with canned or jarred fruit that really just rocks your world? I love how you have incorperated the whole visit into this blog. That pie looks amazing!!
By the way, you look totally hott in that pic, lol.. ;)

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