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July 26, 2010 in desserts, notfood3 comments

back from hiatus

blueberries and cream

Looks like I fell off the edge of the world for a while there. It was an unplanned hiatus, brought on by minor crises and busy-ness. Here’s the tale, and a “recipe” for blueberries and cream.

Mainly it was the June Dental Crisis

For months I’d been having problems with “sinus infections” and tooth sensitivity and swelling/pain in my upper left jaw. “Sinus infections” is in quotes because I thought they were at the time; now I’m fairly certain some of them were caused by the tooth and not the other way around (“Your tooth hurts? Oh, that must be from a sinus infection”). Read more on back from hiatus…

fresh blueberry pie

i had to rip this out of someone's hands to get a pic before the whole pie was gone

Blueberry pie ranks right up there. Number two after sour cherry pie, for sure. I’d always had blueberry pie that was baked, but the blueberries this year are so fabulous — large, and the perfect sweet-tart combination — that I wanted to do one that was more strawberry pie-style.

the blueberry and cornstarch mixture just as it begins to cook

In other words, blueberries mixed with a thickening agent and set inside a prebaked shell of some sort. So the flavor of the fresh berries would burst through.

the cooked and thickened blueberry mixture. time to add in the fresh ones!

KAF came through! That’s the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Remember that, because I’m not going to repeat it.

cool, we've dumped in the fresh blueberries!

The original recipe in KAF called for 1 cup of sugar. Based on scientific evidence — Mom had just made a fresh blueberry pie using another recipe calling for 3/4 cup sugar and turns out is was JUST. TOO. SWEET. — I cut it to 1/4 cup. I don’t know why you’d want more, unless you’re some kind of stereotypical sugar-loving animal whose name escapes me at the moment. Plus if you use the walnut-oat crust, you’re getting some more sugar there. Read more on fresh blueberry pie…

how to flash freeze blueberries

flash frozen blueberries in a freezer bag

Skip ahead to to the blue text if you want the instructions without the incoherent babbling.

Flash freezing has been done in the food industry for ages to quickly preserve and seal in nutrients and freshness. It’s why nutritionists say frozen seafood, vegetables, and so forth are technically “fresher” than their fresh cousins you find in the grocery store.

Of course, if you’re practicing locavore-oriented shopping, you don’t have that problem now, do you? It’s not hard, and you don’t have to be a hardass about it. You’re just growing a garden, or befriending people who do, or participating in a CSA. Okay, I had to act like I knew what a CSA was. Hey look, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

Oh, wow. There’s one in my area. Crap, now you know where I live. No stalking!

Back to locavore stuff. You’re doing the above, and/or you’re looking for locally-grown produce at the supermarket, you’re befriending people with chickens for eggs, etc. It doesn’t have to be all intensive like the people who do “we’ll only eat anything grown within 100 miles” experiments.

So if you’re me, one locavore thing you’ve done recently is go to a local orchard and buy or pick blueberries. You picked a lot of blueberries. And you might as well throw some in the freezer for winter.

There’s something sparkly about pulling berries out of the freezer in the dead of winter, and making a smoothie, or cobbler, or pie. In like, February. You want to do this with your pretty local berries.

Note: This method can be used with nearly anything solid. I freeze tablespoons of tomato paste this way. Adobo chiles. Some people flash freeze lemon slices, or mushrooms. I don’t know if I trust frozen mushrooms, but they can’t hurt if being thrown into a lasagna or something. Read more on how to flash freeze blueberries…

what to do with fresh blueberries

What *I* like to do with fresh blueberries!

I have a confession to make.

I cannot bring myself to bake or cook with fresh berries.

Why not? Their season is so short, it seems such a waste to transform them with heat, when frozen berries will do the job just as well. And you can whip out frozen blueberries in the dead of winter, anytime.

But fresh berries in the dead of winter? You know they’re out of season, so they’re being shipped thousands of miles, and hey! *snaps fingers* we’re trying to eat more local here. In that process of being shipped across continents, they’re losing freshness and flavor, and won’t be worth much fresh anyway, in my opinion.

Why not practice a more seasonally-aware cuisine? Gorge on fresh when it’s available, and freeze or preserve once you’ve gotten sick on fresh blueberries. (Tomorrow I’ll be freezing blueberries, and show you how, which is hardly necessary, as it’s so damn easy you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before.)

In the spirit of practicing a more seasonally-aware cuisine, we’re now eating 99% blueberries and sweet corn. Ha ha.

13 ways of looking at a blueberry

Simple, as usual, is better. There are approximately 3 general ways to go with fresh blueberries. First is sweet, and mixed with dairy and/or grains. Second and third are savory, in salads or salsa.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. Read more on what to do with fresh blueberries…