I measure the seasons in what is available to eat, so one of the most exciting things for me about June and July in the South are the blueberries. The delicious berries have been showing up at local farmer's markets from all over southern Louisiana and Mississippi since late May, so they're still available and exceptionally sweet. While the berries are available by the pint from the Crescent City farmer's markets and the Hollygrove Market, I prefer to satisfy my cravings for blueberries by the gallon, at one of the U-pick farms on the Northshore or in Mississippi. (Visit www.pickyourown.org for U-pick farms nearby or read on for information about my favorite blueberry farm in Mississippi). That way, I get to eat my fill of fresh berries, full of cancer-fighting antioxidants, and then still have plenty left over for baking and freezing for smoothie-making, or future baking throughout the rest of summer and fall.
My favorite U-pick farm for blueberries is Live Oak Farm in Pass Christian, Mississippi. They have 500 certified organic blueberry plants on four and a half acres. They always seem to have the biggest, sweetest berries that I can find. In addition to the blueberries, Live Oak Farm raises chickens, turkeys and goats. The turkeys are pastured near the blueberry field and they gobble shrilly anytime they hear a loud noise. A few years ago, a few friends and I were picking blueberries during a summer thunder storm and all the turkeys gobbled in unison in response to each clap of thunder, creating a strange ambiance for our blueberry picking adventure.
Once I have my fill of blueberries (I can't leave before I've picked at least two gallons), I like to reward our efforts with a picnic at the beach in Pass Christian (with blueberries for dessert, of course). The gentle, warm water of the Gulf makes for a refreshing stop on the way back to New Orleans.
If you visit Live Oak Farm, be sure to call first to make sure some one will be there:
Live Oak Farm
3229 East Dubuission Road
Pass Christian, Mississippi, 39571
After I get my berry harvest home, I always think I'm going to have enough blueberries to make jam, but I never do. Blueberries are best enjoyed fresh, so I try to enjoy them right away, or freeze them for smoothies, but I also manage to save plenty for desserts and muffins. Jam just doesn't seem to do blueberries justice.
One of my favorite things to do with my blueberry bounty is to make Kuchen. 'Kuchen' is the German word for cake, but that doesn't fully embody the essence of this creation. It's more like a very simple tart, with a layer of cooked blueberries that form a sort of jam-like filling, and then is topped with fresh blueberries. It looks impressive, tastes like summer, has a pat in the pan crust, and only takes about 15 minutes of prep time. In short, it's an awesome multi-purpose dessert, but it has such a small amount of sugar that it works for breakfast too. So get picking! Blueberry Kuchen awaits.
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, slightly softened and cut into small pieces*
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 5 cups fresh blueberries (3 cups of which can be from frozen berries)
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
*I use a combination of half lard and half butter, but it's only worth doing if you have access to good lard, preferably rendered yourself.
1) Preheat oven to 400°F. In medium bowl, mix 1 cup flour, salt and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle with vinegar and shape into dough. With lightly floured fingers, press dough into 9-inch springform pan about 1/4 inch thick on bottom, and about 1 inch high around sides.
2) Mix remaining 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Add three cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen) and toss lightly to combine. Add blueberries to pastry shell in springform pan.
3) Bake on the middle rack for 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack. Sprinkle with remaining 2 cups fresh blueberries and let cool for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the crust edge to separate from the pan before opening springform. Delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream, or eaten cold for breakfast.