One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry, as they say in Jamberry. This past weekend I had one berry, two berry, eight pounds of blueberries. I made a special order from my CSA – a typical box dosn’t just come with eight pounds of blueberries. Eight pounds was overwhelming for about a minute. And now they are all used up – just like that.
Confession time: In my rush to preserve things, I sometimes forget to eat things fresh. Within an hour after I picked up my eight pounds of blueberries, four of them went into my new (awesome mother’s day present) jam pot. They went in so fast I didn’t even take a picture. And then in a flash I had jam – blueberry jam infused with cinnamon, to be precise. About a million jars of it. Four of them didn’t seal correctly, so those have already been used by the family or given to neighbors for their fridges. The rest are now packed away for later. Boom – done.Sheesh. It is hard to take an interesting photo of a jam jar. I need a more photogenic hobby. Let’s try one of the jam in action:
This is very tasty jam. But, really, how much jam does one family need? We don’t even eat that much bread. (I guess I could take up a bread baking hobby – it looks fun, smells amazing and I’m sure tastes great – but the fact that it’s homemade doesn’t keep those carbs from sticking to my waistline.)
Why jam, then? I don’t know for sure. Sometimes I jump into these food projects a little too willy-nilly, swept up in the activity of the making for making’s sake. I can get a little wound-too-tightly about my kitchen adventures. I ponder and plan but sometimes I find myself wondering why. It doesn’t always seem so clear. Am I doing it to justifying my stay-at-home-mom lifestyle? Am I doing it because it’s a quiet way to tinker alone in my kitchen for an hour or two? Am I doing it because I like to see my closet shelf lined with sparkling jars in an array of colors? I must sound like a total geek for saying so, but I do enjoy my shelf (okay, shelves) of goodies put away. I think I also play around with these food projects because I enjoy creating useful things. I like to think of my home, and my kitchen especially, as a place where things are produced, rather than just consumed. And blueberry jam could be considered useful – especially if it’s tasty. Jam makes a nice gift . . . and awesome PB and Jam sandwiches. Will it change the world? No. Will it taste good on toast? Yes.
And so, with no clear answer to my existential question – I charge ahead. I will be satisfied to say merely . . . I preserve because I can.
My blueberry jam recipe called for cinnamon, which was lovely. The smell of cinnamon and blueberries wafting through my kitchen triggered a realization – in all my thinking about preserving blueberries for winter or the apocalypse or something, I had forgotten the highest calling that a wee blueberry can have: to be used in my Mom’s Blueberry Coffeecake. How selfish of me to be denying those precious little organic blueberries that experience. And of course, it is the highest calling of a cook to make something so delicious that one cannot walk through the kitchen and not slice off a nibble. And so what if the carbs stick to my waistline. Family legend has it that if you eat the cake in little nibbles throughout the day, the calories don’t actually count. Or maybe I’ll just amp up my 10,000 steps a day by walking in and out of the kitchen to eat this blueberry streusel coffee cake.
A long time ago, before I moved out on my own, I wisely copied down some of my Mom’s recipes that I could not live without. This was years before I owned a personal computer, so the copying was done with a pen on a card, et voila:As it is now The Future, I copied and scanned both sides of my little index card and emailed it to myself from the printer so I could upload it onto the interwebs where it will remain forever. Here is a photo of the coffeecake, and yes I was just about to cut myself a(nother) little bitty slice.Alas, as I write this, the coffeecake is gone (it will be replaced by a loquat crostada that I’ll make later today). Thank you, coffeecake. It was lovely having you around. But now is time to introduce my next blueberry project – Blueberry Shrub.
A shrub is basically a syrup made of equal parts fruit, sugar and vinegar. They can be used as a flavoring for soda or cocktails. You can learn a lot about them here and see a recipe here. This is a very good article describing two different methods. Finally, there is a blog named Feel Like Making Shrub (loving the Bad Company reference) which has a lot of great information on shrubs. Alas, the blogger stopped writing the blog about shrubs and went on to make a living (hopefully!) about shrubs.
I can’t report yet on the flavor of the shrub, but it smells good. I promise to report back later – maybe with a whole shrub post. But even though I can’t write about the whole process, here is the basic recipe I’m following:
Method adapted from Feel Like Making Shrub
16 oz. fresh fruit (berries)
16 oz. sugar
12 oz. champagne vinegar
4 oz. raw apple cider vinegar
Put the fruit and sugar in a large jar. With a potato masher, or an 8-ounce mason jar, or some other similar tool, smash the berries and sugar together. Set aside in a cool dark place overnight while the fruit releases its juice and forms a syrup. The next morning, add the vinegar and stir. Return the jar to your cool dark place and let it sit for one week. After one week, strain the mixture through a fine sieve to take out the solids. Let the mixture rest in the refrigerator for a week or so to let the flavors mellow.
This is where I’m at now – I poured in the vinegar this morning:
And so after all my existential preserving drama, I think I did okay with my eight pounds of blueberries. I used them in a four-pronged way I think would make a good model for future harvests: I made something we can use much later in the year (jam), something that we will use for the next few months (shrub), and something that we ate right away (coffeecake). We even seized our blueberry moment and ate them raw in simple blueberry-gorgonzola-arugula salad.I was so in the moment that I forgot to take a picture until was too late . . .