This is not to say I've completely avoided cooking over the past three weeks. In fact, my husband and I took advantage of the recent blueberry season in Western Nova Scotia to pay a visit to Oxford, the self-proclaimed wild blueberry capital of Canada. Not knowing exactly where to get the best blueberries, we decided to consult the people who would be able to tell us: the Oxford tourist information centre (and wild blueberry and maple museum). The staff member at the desk was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable: he was able to tell us that the blueberries they were selling, at $10.75 for 5 pounds, were from Amherst, about 20 km closer to home than Oxford. He also explained that the "blueberry capital" distinction is earned on the basis of Oxford's processing/freezing plant, which handles blueberries from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine.
We ended up buying 10 pounds of the berries, learning that this would be enough for about 5 pies. Well, we discovered that 10 pounds of blueberries was a lot more than we thought it would be. Our 10 pounds went into the following recipes:
- 2 blueberry pies
- 2 batches of blueberry muffins
- 1 blueberry-orange loaf
- 1 blueberry-orange cake
- 1 blueberry buckle
- 1 "pouding renversé des bleuets" (blueberry upside-down cake)
- 1 batch blueberry sorbet
I'm also going to infuse some vodka with the small blue berries, with the ultimate goal of making a liqueur. After that, there will still be a small number of berries left - just enough to go on my yogurt in the morning.
The centre is devoted to both blueberries and maple syrup because Nova Scotia also has a small, but apparently devoted, maple syrup industry, with a lot of cross-over between the blueberry farmers and maple syrup producers. Our friend at the tourist information desk told me that the producer of the maple syrup they sell had had a stroke of bad luck recently, losing their entire sugar shack operation in a fire started by a lightning strike. This was on top of their having lost their mechanical blueberry harvesters last year in a similar accident. But he couldn't say enough good things about the quality of the product, which was still made the old-fashioned way, by boiling the sap over a wood fire, rather than using the reverse osmosis process that many Quebec syrup operations apparently use.
With that kind of a sales pitch, I couldn't help but buy two litres of the sweet stuff. The first item on my to-do list is maple pie, but I'm sure I'll find out that 2 litres of syrup is about as hard to use up as 10 pounds of blueberries. Fortunately, the syrup has a much longer shelf life!
Pouding renversé aux bleuets
Adapted from A Taste of Quebec by Julian Armstrong
2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup shortening
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar and the lemon rind in an 8-inch square pan. Cream the shortening and remaining sugar in a bowl, then add the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture and milk, in alternating additions, to the creamed shortening, forming a smooth batter. Spoon over the prepared blueberries, and bake for 40 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean. Let cool a little and turn out onto a plate. Serve warm or room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.