July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

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July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Jenise » Wed Jul 12, 2006 5:54 pm

Blueberries, once a limited seasonal crop, are now available all year long thanks to the fact that they're common in both hemispheres. In fact, right now, I wouldn't be surprised if Neil and Sue Courtney aren't buying blueberries from the Northern U.S. states while in winter, we buy blueberries from their part of the world. And demand is up because blueberries, which are one of the richest anti-oxidants that nature provides, can be useful in reducing aging-related health issues like cancer, Alzheimers and heart disease.

When David Bueker suggested this topic, Robin and I found ourselves on different sides of the table, but the ensuing discussion about ways to introduce blueberries into our diet in a healthy way convinced us that the topic deserved exploration.

Not that there's anything wrong with pancakes and muffins. We love 'em and they're here to stay. But there are ice creams and cheesecakes (a blueberry, port and pecan cheesecake on http://www.foodnetwork.com) and sorbets and panna cottas (lemon panna cotta w/blueberry sauce, an Emeril recipe also on http://www.foodnetwork.com). Or how about a Bluebarb Pie (http://www.saveur.com)? Or a clean and fresh dessert of Prosecco Jelly with Nectarines, Blueberries and Candied Orange Peel (http://www.foodnetwork.com)?

And there are savory applications, too, and this is probably the best road to healthy blueberry applications. But, to be honest, there are not nearly as many recipes out there as I expected to find. Epicurious (http://www.epicurious.com) listed just two, one a salad of Mixed Greens With Feta, Almonds and Blueberries, and another for Peppercorn Crusted Muscovy Duck w/Blueberries. I love the sound of the latter, since a rare duck breast with a savory brown sauce that contained a handful of piquant blueberries thrown in at the last minute was the most memorable meal of our Paris honeymoon 20 years ago. I was, up until that meal, unequivocably opposed to any combination of fruit and meat, but that meal was so mindblowing good that we went back the next night and had it again.

Similar but diffferent, the U. S. Highbush Blueberry Council (http://www.blueberry.org) offers a recipe for Roast Duck with Blueberry Sauce. Their site also offers a recipe originated by one of Portland's best chef's, Cory Schreiber, for Roast Cornish Game Hens with Sauteed Blueberries and Sweet Garlic Cloves.

They do like their blueberries in Oregon. On her site (http://www.what'scookingAmerica.com), FLDG friend and Oregon resident Linda Stradley offers a recipe for acorn squash baked with a filling of blueberries, diced apples, brown sugar and butter.

Another site touted the winning recipe of an Oregon Blueberry recipe contest, involving salmon baked until bubbly in a mixture of anaheim chiles, pineapple, blueberries, grapefruit, butter and brown sugar. Maybe this will sound more appealing to some of you than it does to me. :shock: That said, using similar ingredients, the BC Salmon Marketing Council has a recipe for a fresh salsa for grilled wild salmon that sounds so good, I'm going to post that as a separate recipe.

Even Walmart has a blueberry recipe. Apparently they publish a calendar, and their pin-up girl for June was a blueberry/corn salad!

So, you get the idea: blueberries are wonderful and delicious, and they're not just for breakfast anymore. Why not buy a box and try one of the recipes above, or venture out on your own?
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 12, 2006 6:43 pm

Buy a box? Go pick some!

We are lucky to be able to get fresh from the bush blueberries each and every week from now until early September from a place about a mile from the house. We end up eating them by the pound until the "better" apple varieties come in (e.g. Macoun, Cortland and later stuff) further on in fall.

I do freeze a bunch flat in bags to make muffins all winter, but I really like doing "Asian" type sauces for pork or chicken using blueberries. There always a bit of a throw together thing, but usually involve soy, garlic and chili pepper along with the fruit element, get thickened up a bit and used with country ribs or pork roast.

I love 'em on salty & nutty salads. Mmm...

Oh yeah, one time for "the guys" I did blackened rib-eyes with a blueberry & port reduction to serve with syrah and (gasp...) shiraz.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Paul Winalski » Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:05 pm

This has been a horribly wet spring and summer season here in New England, with some of the worst flooding on record. But the damp conditions seem to have signaled to the local wild berry plants that it is an appropriate time to set fruit. I found out, to my great delight, that those nasty, thorny brambles lurking just beyond the mow-line behind my condo are, in fact, wild black raspberries! Less plump than their domesticated cousins, but a lot tastier.

There are wild blueberry bushes lurking in the undergrowth near the parking lot at work. I'll have to check 'em out.

-Paul W.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Jenise » Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:14 pm

Do you U-pick? I can do that here but today it's wet and rainy--I'm not interested in tromping around in the mud, so I stopped at the store--where the berries are all fresh and local anyway.

With all the hiking you do you must pick them a lot in the wild as well. I remember in Alaska a controversy involving high bush vs. low bush, but can't remember why each side's proponents favored their end.

Soy sauce, garlic, chile...hmmm. So you go kind of Asian. That sounds terrific. I've got a rack of lamb for tonight, and was thinking blueberries in a cab or zin reduction with mint. I was also going to put blueberries in my salad and I just realized that I forgot to buy salad greens. Dang it. All I have is arugula, which is good, but we've eaten it for the last three nights in a row. I love berries in salad and use raspberries and strawberries that way, but I am almost embarrassed to admit I never thought of using blueberries in that fashion.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Paul Winalski » Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:38 pm

Jenise wrote:Do you U-pick? I can do that here but today it's wet and rainy--I'm not interested in tromping around in the mud, so I stopped at the store--where the berries are all fresh and local anyway.


Some friends of mine in rural New Hampshire have a pick-your-own blueberry grove. You've reminded me to touch base with them and to ask how the season's going. :-)

I wonder how blueberries would fare in an oriental-style sweet-and-sour dish? At the very least, I'd think they'd be an improvement over the maraschino cherries you get in mediocre US sweet-and-sour pork. But they might do well in the real thing, too. I'll have to try it out, when I get the chance.

-Paul W.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby David M. Bueker » Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:40 pm

In season, Laura and I pick fruit every single week. We would do it more often, but our local farm is only open 9-12 during the week.

We do pick a lot of berries while hiking. Last week we got a few blueberries and blackberries in southern CT, but it's really about 10 days early for prime wild berries on our hiking routes. We have a secret spot that we will hit soon.

Low bush berries tend to be smaller and more concentrated, but I love 'em both. When we hike we don't gather. We just pick and eat.
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RCP /FoodLetter/IOTM: Savory blueberry sauce

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:44 am

Savory blueberry sauce

Blueberries are back in season in these parts, and these brilliant blue, pea-size bubbles of berry beauty are mighty hard to resist.

Still, when our FoodLovers Discussion Group advisors suggested that we feature blueberries as Ingredient of the Month for July, calling for a full month of sharing recipes and carrying on serious discussions about <i>Vaccinium corymbosum</I> - that's "blueberries," to you - I was a little dubious.

Sure, you can eat them as is, <i>au naturel</i> or with cream. They're great on vanilla ice cream, fine in pancakes or muffins. What's more, blueberry advocates say, research suggests that they're among the healthiest of fruits, associated with so many health claims that they start to sound like the next-best thing after carnival snake oil.

One blueberry-loving site proclaims that Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Center have listed blueberries No. 1 among fruits with cancer-fighting antioxidant activity. "They are also known to slow the age related loss of mental capacity, fight cardiovascular disease, stroke, urinary tract infections, and to improve eyesight." But will they wash the windows and scrub my floors?

I continued to fret. How many blueberry recipes can there be? Once you've made muffins and pancakes, what fields are left to conquer? Did anybody ever use blueberries in a main course?

But that's what Ingredient of the Month is all about, my friends reminded me. Think outside the box. Contemplate the flavor and style of the featured ingredient, and let your creative spirit run free.

Fair enough. I picked up a couple of boxes of blueberries, ate about half of them right out of the box like popcorn. Then I looked in the fridge, hoping inspiration would strike. Soon enough, it did. A leftover chunk of duck breast, sliced into thin medallions and very briefly re-heated, made a fine base for a savory, spicy blueberry sauce, with no sweetening beyond the natural blueberry flavor. Crushed juniper berries added a remarkably compatible flavor complexity; lemon juice imparted a mouth-watering tangy note; a good strong dose of black pepper and just a hint of anise-scented Asian "five spice" and, finally, a dash of Cholula Mexican hot sauce to finish up with a touch of hot-sweet excitement.

It exceeded my most optimistic expectations, and even my long-suffering bride, who doesn't like fruit-and-meat combinations at all, had to admit that the dish was splendid ... and came back for seconds.

If you don't want to use duck, the sauce should work just as well with pork or turkey dark meat. It's probably too intense for lighter meats like chicken or veal, though, and I don't see the flavors with red meat.

If you like blueberries and enjoy widening your culinary horizons with new inventions, I hope you'll join in our online FoodLovers discussions. For more about the tasty berry, and a few starter recipes, check out the Website of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1/2 cup (120g) fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon (15g) juniper berries
1 teaspoon (5g) black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon Asian "five spice"
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Dash hot sauce

PROCEDURE:

1. Clean the blueberries; separate and reserve about a dozen small ones for use at the end of the recipe.

2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the juniper berries, black peppercorns, sea salt and five-spice into a coarse paste.

3. Put the blueberries (except for the reserved ones) in a saucepan with the juniper-berry paste and the lemon juice. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes (or, if you prefer, microwave for a minute or two), until the berries burst. Blend into a smooth puree, adding a little water if necessary to achieve a fairly thick sauce. Stir in the reserved whole berries and optional hot sauce to taste; you're looking for a well-balanced hot-sweet flavor, not a five-alarm potion.

4. Use as a savory meat sauce for duck, pork or turkey.

<B>MATCHING WINE</b>:
Thanks to its combination of juicy, pear-like fruit and crisp acidity, the Loosen Bros. 2005 Riesling "Dr. L" featured in Monday's <I>30 Second Wine Advisor</I> made an unexpectedly fine match with this sauce on duck-breast medallions. I'd also be interested to try a pairing with a fruit-forward, blueberry-scented red such as a New World Syrah or a Sicilian Nero d'Avola.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Howie Hart » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:25 pm

I just got back from a short vacation to Maine, where blueberries rate just behind lobsters and potatoes. While staying at my sister's she served blueberries two different ways. The first was a simple coffee-cake - slightly sweetened Bisquick dough with fresh blueberries stirred in the dough. The other was a reduced blueberry sauce which she poured over a lemon cake. Both were quite tasty.

My wife used to make blueberry pancakes from a recipe in "The All-Maine cookbook", which I loved. I'll post it as a separate post.

That being said, Blueberry pie is my favorite - yep, more so than sour cherry, apple or pecan.

On another note, one of the nicest home made wines I ever had was a blueberry entered in a local home wine competition. It was deep red, not blue, and tasted much like a cab. Very vinefera-like, especially for a non-grape wine.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Howie Hart » Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:39 pm

Howie Hart wrote:My wife used to make blueberry pancakes from a recipe in "The All-Maine cookbook", which I loved. I'll post it as a separate post.


I guess I made a mistake (second time in my life). I just went to look up the blueberry pancake recipe and it is not in "The All Maine Cookbook". For what its worth, they were a very thick pancakes made with buttermilk. When the batter was ladeled on the buttered skillet, fresh blueberries were immediately scattered onto the uncooked side. The blueberries would cook after they were flipped. Serve topped with butter and real maple syrup. :D
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby James Roscoe » Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:35 pm

Howie Hart wrote:I just got back from a short vacation to Maine, where blueberries rate just behind lobsters and potatoes. While staying at my sister's she served blueberries two different ways. The first was a simple coffee-cake - slightly sweetened Bisquick dough with fresh blueberries stirred in the dough. The other was a reduced blueberry sauce which she poured over a lemon cake. Both were quite tasty.

My wife used to make blueberry pancakes from a recipe in "The All-Maine cookbook", which I loved. I'll post it as a separate post.

That being said, Blueberry pie is my favorite - yep, more so than sour cherry, apple or pecan.

On another note, one of the nicest home made wines I ever had was a blueberry entered in a local home wine competition. It was deep red, not blue, and tasted much like a cab. Very vinefera-like, especially for a non-grape wine.


Howie, you are a man after my own heart. Blueberry pie is tops in my book, although I won't say no to any of the others. I love blueberryy panckes too. Your recipe sounds like the ones my Dad used to make when we would vacation in the Poconos in August for two weeks every summer. The blueberry wine sounds nice. The best commercially grown fruit wine I've tasted was a cranberry wine out of New Jersey. They had a good blueberry wine too. I wish I could remember the producer. I poured it at a tasting last Thanksgiving weekend. The stuff sold like hotcakes (or blueberry pancakes?).
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Re: RCP /FoodLetter/IOTM: Savory blueberry sauce

Postby karenann8sons » Fri Jul 14, 2006 2:59 pm

In my neck of the woods (deep southeast Texas) we have a winery that makes fruit wines and Mr Flies Blueberry Dessert Wine is an award winner every single year! I must drink a case of it a year!!! It is not ULTRA sweet like eiswein but it is very sweet and is DELICIOUS poured over Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

If you're interested, here is the link to the website. http://www.pineywoodswines.com/winelist.htm They will ship at a reasonable rate and with a discount for multiple bottles. I've had several blueberry wines but none better than the one made by Alfred Flies at Piney Woods Winery.

If cooking "isn't your thing" (and it isn't mine) but wine IS... Give blueberry wine a try. Thought I can't say for certain, I'd lay odds that every state has at least one winery that does special fruit wines and offers a blueberry version. Give yours a try!

Just my $0.02

Warmly,
Karen
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Larry Greenly » Mon Jul 17, 2006 12:10 am

This morning I made blueberry scones glazed with the blueberry honey I brought back from PA. Yum. And now I have some antioxidants in me.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Bob Ross » Mon Jul 17, 2006 12:29 am

Blueberries are a sort of religion in New Jersey -- they claim to have "invented" the high bush type. I tried to grow them here but our clay soils just wouldn't let them produce properly.

Luckily, there are many folks who raise them, and New Jersey blueberries are a wonderful feature of summer and early fall here. We get them from Chile, frozen from Canada and Alaska, and surprisingly from Holland and Florida at other times of the year.

For me, the berries all by themselves are best -- on Cheerios and skim milk, with a bit of low fat yogurt and tofu, with oatmeal and softly poached eggs, as a side with pancakes and maple syrup -- if they are firm and juicy I don't want to do anything to change the impression that I just picked them. :-)

We buy our frozen blueberries primarily from Vital Choice at http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/shop2.cfm?category=13

They recommend their blueberries with salmon, and since the berries are frozen, they mush up a bit when thawing. Just by themselves, they make a nice side for salmon and potatoes -- Janet adds a bit of sugar.

I've made their blueberry pie a number of times with good success -- cold is actually better to my taste than warm.

http://www.vitalchoice.com/recipes/blueberrypie.html

In any event, one of my favorite foods -- probably 250 times a year.

Wish they would grow well on our property -- I would blueberry the joint up. :-)

Regards, Bob
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Re: July IOTM / Wild Blueberries:

Postby GeoCWeyer » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:04 pm

I spent the weekend in Iron River WI. It was the annual blueberry festival. Unfortunately the dry weather has really reduced the size of the berries. We decided that it wasn't worth the effort trying to collect BB sized berries.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Jenise » Tue Jul 25, 2006 2:02 pm

Howie Hart wrote:guess I made a mistake (second time in my life). I just went to look up the blueberry pancake recipe and it is not in "The All Maine Cookbook". For what its worth, they were a very thick pancakes made with buttermilk. When the batter was ladeled on the buttered skillet, fresh blueberries were immediately scattered onto the uncooked side. The blueberries would cook after they were flipped. Serve topped with butter and real maple syrup. :D


Howie, you're forgiven. Best blueberry pancakes of my life were made on a boat, parked in a little cove on Alaska's Prince William Sound. We went ashore in a dinghy and picked the blueberries ourselves, being careful to talk very loud constantly to scare the bears away. I was terrified, of course. Anyway, our host made these pancakes that were so good, I refused to adulterate them with maple syrup. He made his extra thick/lofty by separately beating the egg whites into stiff peaks before folding them into the rest of the batter. Might be what your wife did to achieve that thickness you mention.
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Barb Freda » Tue Jul 25, 2006 6:41 pm

I've started making my pancakes like that--I think it's in Cook's Ill. Best REcipes. I ran out of mix and made from scratch--and of course wondered why I hadn't been doing that all along?!?

I made a variation of Robin's savory blueberry sauce this weekend with real pork (local farm, no hormones, etc.)--It was good. I was in Indiana, PA (that is so in the middle of nowhere) and had no juniper berries...or five spice, now I think of it...but I deglazed a bit with gin instead, added five spices of my own to similate 5-spice powder....and I couldn't resist a splash of balsamic at the end.

We loved it. Although my 6 y.o. niece refused to try it bec. blueberries on pork was just way too out there for her...

A side of freshly picked corn bought from the back of a tractor. I ate two ears, no butter or salt, they are that good this time of year.

B
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Re: July IOTM / Blueberries: Beyond the Muffin

Postby Jenise » Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:00 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Blueberries are a sort of religion in New Jersey -- they claim to have "invented" the high bush type. I tried to grow them here but our clay soils just wouldn't let them produce properly....
Wish they would grow well on our property -- I would blueberry the joint up. :-)


Bob, when I researched material for this intro piece, I found a list of the states that consider blueberries something of a delicacy, and was surprised to see NJ right up there. Somehow, it's not consistent with the impression I have of your state, which is of course borne of complete ignorance and a few landings at Newark. Too bad the blues won't grow well for you. You tried low bush, also? I've often wondered if they'd grow on my beach, actually. They'd get some protection from the piles of timber storms drop in and which I don't remove--buffers are good.
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