Bilberry Recipes


(Wild Bilberry Tart)

This tart is such a classic of the Alsace region that I felt I had to call it by its French name.  The most difficult thing about this recipe is picking sufficient bilberries.  It is best made with fresh picked fruit but I often have to store mine in the freezer until I have sufficient.  If the fruit has been frozen it will exude more juice during cooking and, if cooked in the pastry case, can turn it soggy.  I therefore cook my fruit and pastry separately to begin with and then amalgamate them for the final cooking.

Best made a day or two in advance.

For a 9″/23cm tart (Serves 6)

Sweet pastry:

8 oz/225g plain flour

5 oz/140g butter

2½ oz/70g caster sugar

1 large egg yolk


1¼ lb/550g wild bilberries, thawed and well drained if frozen

1 level tbsp arrowroot or cornflour

1½ oz/40g caster sugar (vanilla sugar is good if you have it)

1 egg yolk

3 fl oz/85ml double cream

Pick over the bilberries to remove stalks and leaves but do not wash them.  If frozen put them in a colander to drain as they thaw.

Combine the ingredients for the pastry in a food processor.  Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

Roll out the pastry and line a lightly buttered 9″/23cm tart tin.  Cover and return to the fridge to rest for half an hour.  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.  Prick the pastry with a fork and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper.  Fill the case with baking beans and bake for 15 minutes.

Put the bilberries in an ovenproof dish and cook them at the same time as the pastry case until the juices begin to run.  Drain the bilberries retaining the juice separately.  (See recipe for Whortleberry Ice Cream as a way of using this).

Put the corn flour and sugar into a small bowl and mix with a couple of tablespoons of the bilberry juice to make a smooth paste.  Beat in the egg yolk and double cream and then very gently stir in the bilberries.  Pour the filling into the part baked pastry case having now removed the baking beans.  Turn the oven down to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 15 minutes or until the filling is just set.

Serve cold sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving.  On Exmoor it would always be accompanied by clotted cream!


Here I have reverted to the Somerset name for Bilberries.  This recipe came about as a way of utilising the excess juice from making Tarte aux Myrtilles sauvages.  You could, of course, make it by puréeing whole whortleberries, and it would probably taste even better, but this method does make good use of the by-product from the tart.

5 fl oz whortleberry juice

1-2 tbsps sugar

lemon juice

5 egg yolks

8 fl oz good channel island milk

3½ oz vanilla sugar

8 fl oz channel island cream

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of lemon juice to the whortleberry juice, heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and then bring to the boil.  Continue boiling until the juice has reduced to 4 fluid ounces and has thickened to a light syrup.  Taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if needed (the syrup should have a little acidity).

Heat the milk to just below boiling point (and if you do not have vanilla sugar to use you could instead infuse this with a vanilla pod).

Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Pour on the hot milk, whisking as you do so.  Return the custard mixture to a clean heavy based saucepan and cook over a gentle heat until it thickens slightly.  Transfer immediately to a bowl stood in a sink of cold water, add the whortleberry syrup and stir until it cools.  Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  Stir in the cream and transfer to an ice cream maker to churn until frozen.

Other Ideas

For a smaller quantity of bilberries cook them gently with a little sugar and lemon juice until the juices begin to run.  They are then a perfect topping for cheesecake or lemon posset.

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