Kitchen Accomplice: Blueberry time in Michigan

By John Kirkendall

How adventuresome are you?
If you would like to pick your own blueberries, there are many farms around the state of Michigan that can accommodate you.
If, like me, you are content to shop at the Farmer’s Market, you will be spared. 
However you will not experience the enjoyment and down to earth pleasure of a very interesting project — your kids will be particularly fascinated and thankful (if not today, at least in the future when they think back on the time spent with you.)
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to prepare and serve.
There’s no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting.
They have few natural pests, (other than birds), so pesticides are generally unnecessary.

Picking tips:
Select plump, full blueberries with a light gray-blue color.
A berry with any hint of red isn't fully ripened.
White and green colored blueberries will not ripen after they are picked; while blueberries that have already turned purple, red or bluish usually do ripen after they are picked (if they are kept at room temperature to ripen).
Since blueberries hang on the bushes in bunches a bit like grapes do, the easiest and fastest way to pick them is hold your bucket under them in one hand and with your other hand, cup a ripe bunch and gently rub them with your fingers. 
The ripe berries will drop into your bucket, while the unripe ones will remain attached to the bush.
I can easily pick two gallons per hour (if I'm not being distracted by the kids and the sun isn't too hot!). 
A newbie might do 1 gallon per hour.

Once picked, don't place the berries, still warm from the sun, in a closed bag or container.
Leave the container open so moisture doesn't form in the container.
Don't wash berries until just before using to prevent berries from becoming mushy.
Chill berries soon after picking to increase shelf life.
 If refrigerated, fresh-picked blueberries will keep 10 to 14 days.
Blueberries are ranked No. 1 in antioxidant activity compared with 40 other commercially available fruits and vegetables.
That means a serving of blueberries has more of the antioxidant power you need to fight aging, cancer and heart disease.
Put this in your pipe! Indians in the Northwest Territory smoked wild blueberries to preserve them for the winter.
Pickyourown.org gives you the names and locations of the farms in your area if you are inclined.
This site also provided much of the information I have included here.
If all this has your mouth watering, this simple blueberry pie will satisfy you. 
It is delicious and  simple to do.

Ingredients and Equipment
(per 9 inch deep dish pie)
• 3 to 4 cups of Blueberries, 3 cups if you like a thin pie, 4 cups if you like it a little higher.
• 7 Tablespoons corn starch
• 3 Tablespoons water
• 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
• One 9 inch pie crust — if you haven't tried the graham cracker crust — I highly recommend it. 
Spices:
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon allspice
One 9 inch deep-dish Pie Plate — (grocery stores sell both disposable pie pans and glass pans. Get the deep type!
2/3 cup granulated (ordinary table) Sugar

And now, choose the topping you prefer:
Crumb topping (my preference, again):
• 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup flour
• 1/4 cup butter or margarine

Step 1  - Make the pie crust
Step 2- Wash the blueberries
Just rinse them in a colander or sieve in cold water
Pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy berries.
 It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the berries as they float. 
With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy berries that  get caught in your fingers.
Step 3 - Mix the dry filling ingredients.
Combine the 2/3 cup sugar, 7 Tablespoons of corn starch in a bowl  and mix well.
Some people like 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or 1/4 teaspoon of allspice, mixed in, also. That's optional, but it works well.
Step 4  - Mix in the liquids. Add the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and 3 Tablespoons of water (or grape juice) and stir it up.
Step 5 - Add the blueberries to the pie crust

Just pour them in! 
There's lots of air space and it will cook down, so don't worry if they mound up about an inch above the edge of the plate.
Step 6 - Pour the liquid mix into the pie
Just pour the mixture of sugar, juice, etc. into the pie all over the blueberries.
If it is a gloppy liquid, don’t worry, just pour it somewhat evenly over the top.
But it doesn’t take perfection; it will smooth itself out in the oven.
Step 7 - Make and add your topping:
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1/4 cup butter or margarine
Put ingredents together in a small bowl and sprinkle it over the pie.
If you want to the dough topping instead, roll out a circular section of dough that you made in step 1, to 1/8 inch thick, then place it over the pie. 
Seal it against the edges with the pie crust, and make decorative slits with a knife.
Step 8 - Put the pie in the oven.
Cook the pie at 375 F  for 1 hour.
Step 9 - Remove when the pie is golden and pie is bubbling
Check to see if it is bubbling and crust is golden brown. If if not, check every 3 or 4 minutes until it is.
Step 10 - Set the pie on a rack to cool and enjoy! Serve warm with ice cream. 
Refrigerate after it is cooled.
It easily lasts a week in the fridge (that is, if there is no one there to eat it. Most of the time, it will, like Houdini, miraculously disappear!)
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Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco.  He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges.

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