The Blue Berries of Summer
My Great Uncle Bill always seemed larger-than-life. Tall and handsome, he wore a white Stetson, drove a Cadillac convertible and, like most of the men on that side of my family, he had a way with the ladies. He was my paternal grandfather’s brother. There was art in his house—something rare in the world of my childhood. He had a fascinating collection of prints, paintings and sculpture, mostly depicting horses and cowboys. You may envision a J.R. Ewing type, but Uncle Bill was no Texas oil tycoon---he was a blueberry farmer in Otis, Maine.
For two weeks in August, my family would vacation in Old Town, Maine. A trip to Uncle Bill’s blueberry farm was always on the itinerary. Each visit included the opportunity to “help” him pick blueberries. My three sisters and I would daintily pluck the blueberries, one by one, from the tall bushes. Uncle Bill, probably anxious to get out of the summer sun, would grab a fistful and smash them into his mouth. “THAT’S the way to pick blueberries!” he would say.
We took our stash of blueberries back to “The Camp”, which was a log hunting cabin that my grandfather had built. There was no indoor plumbing (yes, we used an outhouse!) and a large black wood stove. Although I had heard stories of my grandmother cooking and baking on that stove, my mom had no desire to spend the better part of an afternoon trying to regulate an oven with varying amounts of firewood. She convinced us that fresh picked blueberries were best eaten in a bowl with a little sugar and cream. Either that, or smashed into your mouth by the fistful! In honor of summer days in Maine, blueberry stained faces and a certain white Stetson, I share my first recipe:
These muffins are moist, delicious and full of fresh blueberry flavor. They are perfect for breakfast and make a great not-too-sweet snack. Try them for dessert---warmed slightly and topped with a scoop of your favorite ice cream!
Makes 10-12 muffins
1 cup blueberries
2 cups flour, sifted, plus 2 Tablespoons for dusting blueberries
¾ cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 large egg
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1-2 teaspoons turbinado sugar for muffin tops (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°
Grease a 12 cup muffin pan with butter, shortening or cooking spray (Alternately, use paper cupcake liners)
Rinse the blueberries in a colander and shake off the excess moisture. Put berries in a small bowl and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of flour. Toss the blueberries to coat thoroughly with flour. This step will help your blueberries to not all sink to the bottom of your muffin tin.
Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. I like to sift my dry ingredients onto a piece of waxed paper. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg until frothy. Add the milk, yogurt, melted butter and lemon zest (Although lemon zest is optional, I recommend using. It adds a subtle but delightful zip to the sweetness of the berries.). Mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine lightly, just until blended. Stir in blueberries.
Fill muffin cups three quarters full with mixture. To make muffins even more impressive, fill 10 muffin cups instead of 12. The extra batter will make them rise over the top. If you choose this option, be sure to grease the top of your muffin tin as well!
Sprinkle some turbinado sugar over each muffin (if desired). This will add some sparkle and a little extra crunch to the tops. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes (30 if making the larger version). Bake until a tester (toothpick or thin skewer) comes out clean. Cool in pan 5-10 minutes, remove then cool completely on wire rack.