Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blueberry Bonanza

As I have mentioned before, I consider myself to be an urban forager, and that includes going to pick-your-own farms to gather the fruits of the field. Well, blueberry season came early this year to Maine. And although I was unable to go picking with the friend who took me strawberry picking, I did manage to squeeze in a trip after work and between thunderstorms one day.

The farm was a bit out of the way, and the owner’s wife didn’t sound very enthusiastic when I called to check picking times. But force myself upon that farm I did! When I got there, the rain had just subsided and an intense damp humidity was still sticking in the air. But, I pulled up into the lonely parking area, and walked to the picking shed for containers and instructions.

The fields were completely empty, except for the family of wild turkeys sneaking in to eat blueberries. I was directed to one bush and told to work my way up from the bottom, so that the weighed down branches would pick themselves up off the ground. There were so many blueberries that I only had to pick one side of the blueberry bush before I had my 5 quarts filled. And if you know me at all, I looked at those five quarts, looked at all the other bushes and thought; Well, maybe I should pick some more. Five quarts isn’t THAT much.
But thankfully I restrained myself and only went home with five quarts. Which really is restraint on my part. Especially after I popped one into my mouth and actually said out loud to the family of wild turkeys “Holy Crap”. These were the biggest, juiciest, sweetest blueberries I had ever had. I have met people who claim to not like blueberries – but I am sure that these little beauties would change their minds.
The next step was to see what I was going to do with 5 quarts of blueberries. Since the weather has been hot and humid recently, the thought of making jam was out of the question. But blueberries freeze very well, and have a decent texture once unfrozen. I kept one and a half quarts out for me to eat and share (and I have been having handfuls of blueberries on ice cream, cereal, and alone all week) which, left three and a half for freezing. Apparently the trick to freezing blueberries is to not wash them before freezing, but I washed and dried some, and then just dumped the rest into reseal-able bags and tossed them into the freezer.
My freezer now has so much fruit in there; we don’t have much room for anything else – which is not necessarily a bad thing. And since this summer has been so warm, we are starting to get all of the other summer produce in gardens and at farmer’s markets. Which of course means zucchini.
A friend had brought over some zucchini, and has made me swear to not spend any money on zucchini for the remainder of the summer. Where I am going with this is a combination of blueberries and zucchini. I love zucchini bread, and I believe that you can add almost anything to zucchini bread and have it taste great. So Blueberry Zucchini bread was born. Although it turns out that I am not the first person to come to this epiphany. I managed to find a recipe I like, tweak it, and add some blueberries for a bread that is good for dessert, but according to Joe, can count for breakfast as well.
Blueberry Zucchini Bread
Adapted from SmittenKitchen.com

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch all spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup blueberries (or more if you want)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and nuts.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed through, then add the blueberries and mix until just combined. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (I had to cover my loaves to stop them from browning too much before they finished cooking.)

Makes 2 loaves

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