I'm drowning in blueberries.
It's blueberry season here in central Florida. Hand-lettered plywood signs dot the highways, directing drivers: "Five miles ahead! U pick blueberries!" Last week, our family donned some long-sleeves, lathered ourselves in bug spray and headed off to Lyna Berry Farms in search of fresh, ripe, juicy blueberries. And goodness, did we find them!
After tying buckets to our waist, we slipped our way through the rows of berry bushes, sampling the various varieties before settling on a patch of the largest, juiciest berries we had ever seen. The size of grape tomatoes, the plump delights fell from the bush at the slightest nudge, into our waiting buckets. Aubrey couldn't resist their tempting sweetness, and she spent most of the morning gently polishing a freshly plucked berry on her shirt (to 'clean' it, of course) before popping it into her mouth. Aiden was a bit more disciplined in his berry picking, sampling far fewer than he placed into his bucket, but soon he was bored with the practice and found entertainment in recycling dropped berries from the ground into projectiles to be thrown at his sister.
Along the way, we encountered a couple of rabbits, their downy cotton tails flashing as they hopped beneath the tangled rows. A giant grasshopper was found, which Aubrey attempted to feed and Aiden delighted in holding--that is, until the grasshopper decided to poop on the dear boy's arm. Although it would seem such an act would offend the receiving party, in this case, it brought quite a bit of laughter and an opportunity to chase his sister with the bug's droppings. What can I say--the boy is eleven.
Soon our buckets and bellies were full, and after paying the dear woman who ran the farm, we loaded up and headed home. 12 pounds of blueberries made it home with us. That's when the real fun began for me. I began with baking shortbread and reducing the berries into a delicious compote, which we layered together and slathered with fresh yogurt cream. The next morning, lemon pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup. The following night, a quick blueberry cobbler. Next up, seared pork tenderloin with blueberry pan sauce. And after all of that, we've barely made a dent in the blueberries! A batch of blueberry jam in in order next, and I'll freeze some of the berries for smoothies. And don't forget the blueberry gin fizz to cap off a day of baking!
Here's one of the recipes, for you to try. Watch the growing calendar in your area for blueberry season and get out to a local farm. Your stomach will thank me later.
Lemon-thyme Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour mix (I use gluten free Cup4Cup for my wheat-allergic son)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Scant 1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme (vary according to taste)
Additional milk, if necessary
Canola or vegetable oil
2 cups blueberries, washed
1 cup water, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1. Begin by making syrup: place blueberries and sugar in a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add nearly all the water, leaving approximately 1-2 Tbsp of water in the measuring cup. Cook the blueberry mixture over medium high heat, bringing to a boil and stirring frequently, until the berries have burst and the mixture has thickened slightly.
2. Add cornstarch to the remaining water in the measuring cup and stir until mixture is smooth, with no lumps. Slowly pour cornstarch slurry into simmering blueberry mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to stir blueberry syrup until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and allow mixture to rest while you make pancakes. (**The syrup can be eaten as is, with blueberry chunks in it--this is how we like it--or you can use a stick blender or transfer the mixture to a blender to puree into a smooth syrup. You may need to add water to get syrup to the desired, pourable thickness. And be careful blending hot liquids!)
3. For the pancakes: place lemon juice in a glass measuring cup (2 cup size). Fill measuring cup to the 1 cup line with milk and allow to set at room temp for 5-10 minutes to sour.
4. Melt butter in microwave or on stove top. Remove from heat and stir in chopped thyme and lemon zest. Set aside.
5. In a separate large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
6. Once milk has soured and thickened, add vanilla and egg to the measuring cup. Whisk to combine wet ingredients.
7. Whisk milk mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Add melted butter mixture and stir gently. Allow batter to rest 3-5 minutes while you heat griddle.
8. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Grease lightly with oil, then ladle/pour a scant 1/4 cup batter to make each pancake. Once edges are dry and bubbles appear throughout pancake, approx. 1-2 minutes, flip to other side and cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until pancake is cooked through and springs back to the touch. Remove and keep warm.
Serve a stack of warm pancakes drizzled with the blueberry syrup and enjoy! (PS--this blueberry syrup-blended or strained- is also great as a base for a natural soda, if you have a SodaStream or other soda maker; and also mixes nicely with gin, lime juice and club soda for a refreshing summer cocktail!)
What's your favorite blueberry recipe? I'd love some additional ideas!