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There’s no better use for fresh blueberries than cobblers, muffins and pancakes, but they can also be used in sauces, smoothies and parfaits.
I often forget how much I love a blueberry until the season gets here. The sweet but tart little orb is underappreciated by my family, as well as underestimated as a clothing dye by my young ones. Though we seldom have been without, thanks to keeping a few in the freezer, I admit we don’t celebrate them much until the first bucket is plucked from the bush.
It was about three years ago that I moved into this house and inherited a pair of bushes mature enough to yield a decent crop. If I can keep the birds away there are plenty for pancakes all year long, but when that initial fresh picking occurs on an almost-summer day, I vow to do more than set aside simple cereal toppings and smoothie ingredients. This year I hope to make it count.
And why shouldn’t I? I have this large supply of blueberries waiting to be eaten. It’d be a shame to let them go to waste. They usually ripen about mid-June, an easy time to remember because they’re always full on Lucas’ June 10 birthday, but I guess due to the early warmth we picked a bucketful this past Sunday and a few handfuls two weeks before. If these little bushes keep producing I’m going to have to find new uses for them.
I’m not worried, though. Having a gal who is a very good cook comes in handy. Katie has the neo-hippie thing going for her, where she likes to do it all from scratch. That includes baking, a skill at which I do not profess to excel. I just don’t have the interest in making cakes and cookies as much as the next guy. The dessert routine seems to need a little more patience than I can spare after a long, hard day of teaching students. I much prefer the skillet, grill or gumbo pot duties.
The boys tend to help in the kitchen and bounce back and forth between assisting me and her, depending on who is performing the most interesting/least dangerous task, but when Katie said she was going to make a cobbler we all gladly got out of the way. We knew, no matter what, it was going to be good, it was going to have her own touch even if it was a recipe found on the internet. We also knew she wouldn’t cut corners. This was our Sunday evening dessert after a huge barbecue, and despite being miserably stuffed I couldn’t stop at the “only one bite” I promised myself when dessert hit the table.
It’s a bit sour from the lemons, sweet from the super-sweet blueberries (add more sugar if yours aren’t very sweet) and has a little extra interesting flavor from the bourbon she added. This gal adds bourbon to pancakes. If, say, religious reasons may have you unsteady at the thought of this as an ingredient, then by all means omit it. But remember, kids: Elijah Craig was a Baptist preacher and is considered by some to be the inventor of the spirit. I’ll stand by her side. Just a splash or two never hurt anyone. I don’t think it’s the bourbon that makes this a gateway dessert — it’s the blueberries.
Katie’s Blueberry Cobbler
6 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Pour berry mixture into an ungreased pie pan, preferably ceramic. Dot with butter and sprinkle bourbon over mixture. For this recipe we used Maker’s Mark. I prefer it for baking as it has hints of vanilla and a pretty smooth finish. It’s my middle-of-the-road whiskey, and it’s perfect when you need something not too polarizing.
1 ½ cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
½ cup sour cream
Combine dry ingredients. Using your fingertips, incorporate butter, working it in until you have clumps the size of gravel. It’s like you’re making drop biscuits. Carefully stir in the sour cream. That’s the only liquid used in the topping. Keep kneading until you have a “biscuit dough” consistency. Face it, you really are making a topsy-turvy blueberry biscuit. If you’re lazy you could probably buy canned biscuits and tear them apart, but we aren’t cutting corners. Cover the filling evenly with spoonfuls of the homemade dough.
Bake in a preheated 375 F. oven for 45 minutes, until the topping reaches a deep golden brown. Don’t allow the 8-year-old to dig in until it’s properly cooled. Lava mouth is dangerous.
Celebrate the blueberry. Make a reduction sauce for grilled chicken. Use them for yogurt parfaits with good granola. Freeze them for a quick snack, but be sure you wash them and allow them to dry completely before you stuff them into zip-close bags or you’ll find yourself pulling one giant blueberry from your icebox.
High in antioxidants, full of flavor, easily grown and compatible with most anything, the blueberry is one powerful fruit, er, berry. Whatever. Get yourself a bush or two and follow this recipe or find an attractive gal to cook for you. The apple is a longstanding symbol of temptation in paradise, but do you remember the downfall of Violet Beauregarde? In the end, it was the blueberry.