Sunday, July 21, 2013

further adventures with the blueberry

After two more early mornings in the blueberry patch I decided to experiment.  A new foraging friend suggested I try blueberry cupcakes, which proved to be an inspiration.  Topped with cream cheese frosting and a few fresh berries they are small bites of summer.  I so often focus on the chocolate that these fruit desserts surprise me with their fresh and fruity flavor.

blueberry cupcakes
-Cream 1 stick softened butter with 3/4 c. sugar and 1 egg.   Set aside.
-Combine 2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1.5 tsp. ground spicebush berry, then blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
-Add 1 c. blueberry pulp (1.5 c. berries run through a food mill) and mix thoroughly.

-Spoon batter into greased cupcake tins, let sit 20 minutes.

-Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes (mini muffin-tin size) or till a toothpick comes out clean.
-Remove from pan and let cool on a rack.

-Combine 1/2 stick butter (softened) with 1/4 c. cream cheese (softened); beat on high for 2-3 minutes.
-Add 1/2 tsp. ground spicebush berries and 1/2 - 1 c. confectioner's sugar, then beat on high again for 1-2 minutes.  (Most recipes call for 1 c. of confectioner's sugar, but I prefer the less sweet version.)

Don't you just love the color of that cake?

And in case you're wondering, I began a new blueberry booze experiment this morning.  Blueberries are now soaking in rum with a little brown sugar.  The hard part is the waiting.


Monday, July 15, 2013

berries & booze

Blueberry season has begun.  It amazes me how large these wild berries are; I expect this size from cultivated fruit, but in the woods of PA it delights me to find so many large, ripe berries on tall shrubs.  It's a far cry from the tiny, low bush berries I picked in the White Mountains as a child.

Most people might think pie or jam when facing quarts of fruit, but my thoughts frequently wander toward the alcoholic.  Last weekend's adult beverage: blueberry wine sangria.  Traditionally, sangria consists of wine, fruit, your sweetener of choice, and a schlug of brandy.  Some people also add a carbonated beverage.  Because sweetness and level of alcohol are matters of personal taste, feel free to tweak my recipe and make it your own. 

Blueberry Sangria 
1 bottle blueberry wine
1/2 cup limoncello
1/2 cup blueberry syrup
1/2 cup mixed fruit (I tossed a few raspberries and red currants in with the blueberries.)
2 cups orangina

Blueberries combine so nicely with citrus...this punch goes down very easily.

If you're looking for a stronger cocktail, try soaking your fruit in something distilled to create your own liqueur.  The first liqueurs were often the work of monks who claimed to appreciate the medicinal properties of the brew.  These recipes were fiercely guarded and some (like Chartreuse, made by Carthusian monks since 1737) remain trade secrets today.

Fortunately, most modern day home brewers are more generous with their recipes.  As with sangrias, everyone has their own preferred level of sweetness and alcoholic strength.  I subscribe to Gunther Anderson's modus operandi:  "Guess.  Make the liqueur.  Guess again.  Repeat until it tastes good." 

To start, I imagine which booze might combine best with the fruit at hand.  For blueberries, I'm thinking rum and maple syrup, or maybe vodka, lemon zest, and white sugar.   You know what I'll be doing next weekend...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

back, but busy

We've been back east for two weeks now and between playing catch-up w/clients and taking on some new work, I'm barely keeping my head above water.  Never mind the overwhelming abundance of wild foods this time of year...

What was I thinking, leaving the NE in the first full flush of foraging season?!  I won't make that mistake again.  I was afraid I'd missed two of my favorite harvests: Amelanchier berries and elderflowers, but no!  First day back at work I was met with a bumper crop of Juneberries (aka Amelanchier fruit aka Serviceberries) just waiting to be appreciated.  Which, of course, I did.

Here's how I foraged for Amelanchier in the middle of NYC; it's a specialized kind of urban gathering.   And props to Sara for sharing her Brooklyn kitchen, culinary inspiration, and  delectable Serviceberry Sorbet.

And here's how happy foraging for, cooking with, and eating Amelanchier berries make you!  Thanks Sara.

(photo by Elizabeth Robinson)

Elderflowers to follow.