Sunday, June 7, 2009

What do people do with all those blueberries?

Before I get too carried away with words, I should say that this week through next weekend will be the best time to pick blueberries at Farmer Mac's. We'll likely be open through about June 25, but the last week or so the berries become harder to find and slower to pick. So if you're thinking about coming to get blueberries, drop something out of your schedule and make time to pick berries this week!

So what do people do with all those blueberries?

We have lots of types of customers here at Farmer Mac's.

Some pick only what they think they will be able to eat fresh. The quantity in these buckets is usually somewhere between 3/4 pound and 5 pounds. We also have the fresh only customers who come out each day with a little bowl to fill up. They're here almost every day to pick berries to eat that day. There are also the folks who come out to pick 1 full bucket a day or 1 bucket each if it's a couple that is picking. They do this multiple times throughout the season until they get the correct number of pounds for their frozen berry stash.

Then we have the folks who come out and pick all the berries they want for the year in one outing. These folks are typically the 30 - 40 pounders and they want to either freeze them for use in cooking or make a specific amount of jam or jelly. This customer type is the one that completely baffles the folks in the category above. They look at 5 to 7 buckets come out of the field with typically 2 people and they ask me or them what in the world they are going to do with so many blueberries. This is when you get the explanation about the jam, pie, cobbler business or the Forrest Gump litany.

There are also a few who use blueberries like we do here in my house, as an afternoon snack. When the kids get off the school bus, they come barreling down the driveway dragging bookbags in tow. The bags get dumped somewhere and snack time commences. The snack of choice is frozen blueberries in a cup. Between the 3 elementary schoolers and poor little almost 4 year old Maali who wants to go to school with the other kids so bad that she can't hardly stand it, they manage to down about a quart of berries unless they had something pretty awful at lunch then they want more. Honestly, at my house this is the most common use of frozen blueberries. When we make pancakes or waffles, Maali and I like blueberries in ours. Occasionally we'll make a batch of jam, but when we do we make a large enough batch that it usually lasts a whole year. The entire rest of the blueberry freezer is used for kid snacks and the occasional church dessert.

I have to confess, though, that there are 2 other things that I like alot but make infrequently. At Thanksgiving, I make my own cranberry sauce and it is absolutely divine. I'll dig out the recipe and add it below. I also make Blueberry Salsa. Those of you who have been to the Poplar Grove Farmers Market may have sampled some at our booth there. It's a very easy recipe that substitutes blueberries for the tomatoes and is a heavenly summer salsa that folks rave about. I keep thinking I'll enter these 2 recipes in the recipe contest but I haven't done it yet because until this year I've been on the planning committee and therefore ineligible to compete.

Blueberry Salsa Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes plus 1 hour to marinate

Uses: The experts say this recipe is served with grilled chicken or fish, but I have to confess that I serve it with corn chips or tortilla chips and I always end up with an empty salsa bowl, so serve it however you like.

Yield: About 3 cups

2 cups chopped fresh blueberries
1 cup whole fresh blueberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 seeded and minced jalapeƱo peppers
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Coarsely chop 2 cups fresh blueberries. Stir chopped fresh blueberries together with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill for 1 hour for flavor blending and until ready to serve.

Blue Cranberry Sauce Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Uses: Can be used any time cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly would be used. It can be served warm or cold and our family likes it both ways.

Yield: 9 servings

1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Wash and pick over cranberries. Place in a medium saucepan with water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, stir and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst.

Slightly mash the cranberries with the back of a wooden spoon to insure all skins are broken. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Mix well.

Remove from heat and mix in the blueberries (don't be afraid to break a few, but don't over mash either) and the pecans. This is where frozen blueberries make sense because they don't break apart as readily as the fresh berries do. The goal is to get them stirred in and at the same time to maintain the blueberry shape as much as possible. The blueberries and pecans don't need to be cooked, just added to the mix after the cranberries have exploded. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Transfer to a bowl, cool slightly and place plastic wrap directly on top of sauce to cover. Refrigerate until chilled.

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