(Reposted from last year around this time. The recipes are still good!)
We’re actually a little past blueberry season now, but Maine is so synonymous with the little blue jewels that I couldn’t resist sharing some of my favorite recipes. First, though, let’s clear the air on one major issue: lowbush (aka “wild blueberries) vs. highbush (aka “cultivated blueberries”). I know that in much of the country if you buy a quart of blueberries in the supermarket or go to a pick-your-own operation, you are getting those blue, marble-sized things they call blueberries. You may think, in fact, that those are the only kind there are. Poor you. Lowbush blueberries are tiny by comparison, but–in my far-from-humble opinion, at least–sweeter, firmer, and richer in taste, especially when cooked. I am willing to concede that this may be an irrational prejudice. I have friends who grow the highbush types (which are also, incidentally, naturally wild in some areas of Maine, just as they are in other parts of the country), and they are perfectly happy with the jams and pies they make from cultivated berries. But they just don’t work for me except for fresh eating, so when I call for blueberries in the recipes below, I’m talking wild blueberries.
Here are the recipes I use most often. Most are pretty standard, but I have made a conscious effort to reduce both sugar and salt. If sugar and sodium are no problem for you, you’ll probably need to adjust these to your own taste.
As I do with strawberry jam, I use a natural product called Pomona’s Universal Pectin. With it I can use quite a low amount of sugar and still get a good set to my jam. Coarsely mash 4 cups of blueberries. Add 1/4 c. lemon or lime juice, a dash of cinnamon (optional), and 2 tsp. of the calcium water (this comes with the pectin). In a separate bowl mix 3/4 to 2 c. sugar (I find nearer to 3/4 c. works best for me–I want to taste the blueberries, not the sugar) and 2 tsp. pectin powder. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil. Add pectin-sugar mixture; stir vigorously one to two minutes to dissolve. Return to boil, then remove from heat, fill your canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Yield is four 8 oz. jars.
Best Blueberry Muffins Evah
Simplest works best here! This is a lower sodium recipe.
Grease bottoms only of muffin tin. Mix together 1 3/4 c. flour, 2/3 c. sugar, 1/2 t. cinnamon, and 3 t. of Featherlight (a non-sodium baking powder). Add to this 2 eggs, 1/2 c. milk, and 1/4 c. vegetable oil. As with any muffin, mix just until everything is moistened. Fold in 1 c. Maine Wild Blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes, depending on how dark you like your muffin tops–mine go for 27. Makes 12 muffins. These are at their very best still warm with a pat of butter or margarine, but they also freeze well if you don’t manage to scarf them all down at once.
This is a very simple recipe, one that lets the berries take center stage. I serve it with coffee ice cream rather than vanilla.
Prepare pastry for a two-crust pie, using whatever pastry recipe you favor. I just use a standard 2/3 c. plus 2 T. of shortening (half margarine and half unsalted butter) cut into 2 c. all purpose flour, moistened with 4 or 5 T. ice water. I don’t add any salt at all–you don’t need it to make a nice, flaky crust, and there’s already plenty in the margarine. Besides the salt in the crust shouldn’t fight with the sweetness of the berry filling.
Mix 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. flour, and 1/2 t. of cinnamon (optional but strongly suggested) in a large bowl. Stir in 6 c. wild blueberries. Turn this mixture into a pastry-lined pie plate, sprinkle with 1 T. lemon juice and dot with 1 T. butter or margarine. Cover with your top pastry that already has slits cut in it, seal and flute the edges. Cover the edge with a strip of aluminum foil until the last 15 min. of baking. Bake the pie at 425 degrees for 35-45 min. or until the juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust. Cool to room temperature before you serve; otherwise you’ll be serving blueberry soup with a soggy crust because the filling only thickens as it cools. (Voice of experience speaking here.)
Hope you enjoy!