You can't make everything from scratch

...but you can sure try!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blueberry season

Has it really been more than 3 weeks since I last updated this blog? I've been extremely busy with for-pay work over the last little while, which has really limited my ability to play around in the kitchen, not to mention my desire to write anything in my spare time. Fortunately, the immediate busy season is nearly over, and my pots and pans are calling...

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 egg
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.


  • At 5:54 AM, Anonymous margaret said…

    thank you for visiting my town Oxford...I am a transplant from New Glasgow but home is where your heart is and that is here.


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