Tag: blueberry

Blueberries

Blueberry Picking as a Competitive Sport

This summer has been a banner year for blueberries – lots of blackflies in the Spring to pollinate, and lots of rain to help them grow. As a consequence I have been involved in several blueberry picking expeditions here at the lake. Each time I was out there I thought about blogging about it – it’s a fascinating activity, after all…

If you’ve never picked blueberries, read on. You might learn something about the sport art of blueberry picking. If you have, well, you’re not going to learn anything, but you might have flashbacks. Sorry. 

It all starts when you pick up the elders others who are going to join you. Choose carefully. You must like them a lot, and they must either know “the code” or be able to pick up on “the code” without being told directly. (Ok, from now on just do air quotes whenever I say “the code”.) If they don’t know the code, you’re in for a very irritating experience. The two elders in this photo taught me the code, so they’re cool. 

Elders
Liz & mom – experienced elders! 

Then you have to go to the secret location. If it’s not secret, you’d better hope you’re first, otherwise, you’re pooched. The best berries will be long gone. After a few days of berry picking season, once others have also started, you really need to start to investigate the crown land (don’t ever pick on someone’s property, even if they’re related … picking someone else’s berries is tantamount to theft and you will go straight to hell). If your fellow pickers are a bit more lithe (under 65 is good) you can have them hop out of the boat and do a quick looksee. This is what you want them to see:

Bushes
Blueberry bushes at the beginning of the season – we knew there was lots of good picking to come!

There needs to be a LOT of berries to make it worthwhile – or at least a reasonable amount of BIG berries – otherwise it’s going to be a long berry picking session. 

Note: Leave your phone in the boat or you will be treated as a teenager, chastised for being tethered to your phone (and the temptation to take photos will slowly overpower your will to keep picking, let’s face it…). 

Once you’re out there picking, you’d better have a lot to think about, because it’s fucking boring as hell. It take a LONG time to pick blueberries, even when they’re big. And if the boredom doesn’t get you, there are other things that will:

– the incessant chatter of the person close to you

– the fact that someone has come along and has started picking IN YOUR PATCH (this only happens with rookies) – when that happens, try not to lose your mind – just move on gracefully, you can be mature! 

Quart basket
Everyone has a favourite picking container. Quart baskets do nicely. But no handle …

– the insidious heat (berries like the sun, and since part of the code is to wear long pants & shirts, shoes and a hat, you’re going to be dying)

– the ENORMOUS horseflies (ignore them or soon you’ll be thrashing about, increasing your body temp even more)

– the pain (deep squats or bending over happens every 15 seconds. If you haven’t worked out in a few months/years/decades, you start daydreaming about laying in savasana.) 

– dropping a berry that is PERFECT (do NOT search for it… omg such a rookie move) 

– knocking over your entire basket (this can lead to weeping so don’t be stupid and set your basket on a rock … always wedge it in somewhere)

– hearing rustling in the bushes (a bear? a snake?) – do not use your imagination – consider the creature to be your competition and pick on

Throughout the berry picking there is often lively banter from patch to patch. Don’t be distracted from the fact that people are in a masterfully discreet competition. Best patch, most berries. Period. You have to FOCUS.

And for Christ’s sake, don’t step on the berries! (Crucial part of the code – almost forgot to tell you this…)

Once you think that you have suffered picked enough, it’s time to see if the others are feeling the same way WITHOUT ASKING THEM OUTRIGHT. Part of the code is that you don’t complain and you can’t be the one who has had enough. So this is a careful move. Pick your way back to the boat. If you’re with an elder, one of them will likely be there already. But if you’re with folks in your generation, you want to navigate this next step fairly carefully. Of course, you also need to have more berries than them, so keep that in mind. If you’ve got more, then just go for a skinny dip or check your phone (to make sure the kids are ok). Someone will eventually suggest it’s time to go. If there’s thunder, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to leave. Anything other than that and you’re a wuss. If you haven’t got more, you might want to double back and top up your basket. Depends on what you’re made of. 

Once you’re in the boat people invariably congratulate the best picker on their prowess (while secretly noting that they also have more leaves, red berries and stems in their basket).

Berries in the boat
Bottom of the boat comparison. Note the extra foliage in Paul’s basket. Demerit points. Just sayin’

And you leave.

Done picking
After a skinny dip we’re cool and ready to head back.

Go back to the cottage, take note of the location – maybe even mark it on the lake map so that you remember for next year – and start “cleaning” the berries for eating, baking or the freezer. 

Cleaning berries
When cleaning berries you have to pull out all of the purple & green berries, sticks, and leaves.
Garbage berries
This is the garbage that you have to pick out. It’s a total drag, actually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now you Bake Bake Bake! Here is one of my favorite things to bake with blueberries:  blueberry crumb cake (with a shit ton of berries in it).

Pretty much the best blueberry cake I’ve had.

I have also made a LOT of blueberry muffins (see a previous post). They are the same flavor as the crumb cake – just not as many berries or as much sugar. 

Blueberry muffins
These are pretty much the perfect recipe. Check out the link to my older blog post for details.

My most recent discovery is bluberry boy bait (buttery and seriously amazing). At the time it was too amazing to take a photo of. Try it out!

Note that ALL of these recipes are from my fav blog, the smittenkitchen.

finished muffins

Wendy Muffins Week 2 – Blueberry!

For Wendy’s 2nd week of recovery I decided to make blueberry muffins that have a perfect amount of lemon zest in them. The recipe is one I got from smitten kitchen – I follow their Instagram account and love pretty much everything that they reveal to the world. This recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated, and I love them too, as I mentioned in a previous post

I love this recipe because it’s dead easy, flavourful, has a nice crunchy top (thanks demerra sugar), and the blueberries – even the massive farmed ones – stay distributed through the the muffin. It’s pretty much the perfect recipe. 

As with most other muffin recipes, you mix the fat / sugar / egg / dairy / flavouring together in one bowl, and the dry ingrediants in a separate bowl. Some recipes have you make a “well” in the dry ingredients and then add the liquid to that … blah blah blah. It doesn’t matter!! Just keep the wet and dry apart and then mix them up all at once … no gradual adding of ingredients. The key to muffins is that you don’t want to over mix. If you do, you’ll get little cement pucks. 

ingredients
Three bowls. Wet ingredients, dry ingredients and blueberries with a bit of flour. Simple.

The overmixing factor cannot be igored. As SOON as the flour is incorporated you must STOP. See here? 

ready to mix
Coating the blueberries with a bit of flour will help prevent them from “bleeding”. But you know this.
mixed
Done the mix. Not too much blue in the batter…

Rather than a wooden spoon, I use a really cool gadget from Lee Valley called a Danish Dough Whisk. (Of course it’s European, as many cool cooking accessories are.)

As I mentioned above, it’s recommended that you top the batter off with a sprinkle of that chunky demerra sugar. It’s worth a trip to the store if you don’t have any! 

uncooked
The batter is stiff going in to the pan – but it’s fine. Sprinkle the sugar randomly on top.
muffins done
Done! 
plated muffin
Enjoy with a wee spot of butter. (Makes everything better, don’t ya know?)