Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My friend J and I drove up to Somis and picked blueberries on Sunday! Blueberries always seem at a premium here in SoCal, even when they’re in season, so I was excited that in exchange for just a little driving and manual labor, I could get such a bargain—I picked 2½ pounds for just $8. The picking went slowly at first because blueberries are so small and hard to spot on the bushes (at least when they’ve been regularly picked over by other paying customers), but once I got the hang of it, my hunter-gatherer/obsessive-compulsive skills kicked in. Even though the day was brutally hot and sunny, the work was fun, sort of like a treasure hunt where the big “Eureka!” moment happened over and over every few seconds. It felt more pleasant than past U-pick experiences I’ve had with other fruits: blueberry bushes are relatively tall, so you don’t have to backbreakingly hunch over them as you do with strawberry plants, but they aren’t prickly like raspberry plants; moreover, blueberries stay firmer than other berries and don’t make your hands all sticky.

A loves blueberries in any form with a fiery passion; I enjoy eating them raw, but don’t particularly care for them in baked goods (muffins, pancakes, etc.), where they seem to gain just a bit too much intensity. So we both agreed the majority of my haul should just get rinsed and put in a big bowl in the fridge for noshing throughout the week (I’ve been eating them every morning on my plain yogurt; so good!). I did freeze just a few of them, so we could enjoy them later (to freeze blueberries: without rinsing them, lay them on a single layer on a baking sheet and place it flat in the freezer until the berries are hard, then pour them into a container or plastic freezer bag—this keeps them from clumping together; when you want to use them, just defrost and rinse). But I did feel like celebrating my blueberry coup with something special, so I whipped up a mini blueberry crisp. I just used the apple crisp recipe I’ve already posted, adapted it following the cookbook's directions for using blueberries instead (basically, you just add more flour to keep the filling thick), and halved the recipe so it wouldn't use too many of my precious berries.

The result? Yum, of course. Some of my blueberries were on the small, tart side (I like ’em that way), so they responded well to being baked with sugar. I did think the end product had an overwhelmingly intense-blueberry quality I wouldn’t want to eat all day long—I would have preferred it balanced with some vanilla ice cream, or a slightly higher topping-to-filling ratio. But wow, there’s nothing like eating a spoonful of warm, gooey, sweet baked fruit and thinking, “I just picked these this morning!”

This is the full recipe, which I halved (luckily, I inherited a cute little 1-quart baking dish from some unknown source at some point):

5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
4 tablespoons granulated white sugar
½ cup regular rolled oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup chopped nuts or coconut (I used blanched almonds because that’s what I had on hand)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place blueberries in a 2-quart square baking dish. Stir in the white sugar and 3 tablespoons flour.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and spice. Add butter and mix with two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts or coconut. Sprinkle mixture over blueberries.

4. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until topping is golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Serves: 6
Time: 40 minutes

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