Berry season

August 7th, 2010 by Rebekka in Uncategorized

Late july-august here in Iceland has a particular charm for me, which partially makes up for the fact that it’s started getting dark again at night (i’m never really ok with that, its sad even tho it’s easier to get to sleep, but I suppose another summer with bright nights is due next year, i’ll cling to that fact like a comforting blanket)

Anyway, the hillsides and mossy areas close to where I live are awash with berries this time of year.  Blueberries and another kind of small, tart black berry , I’ve no idea if it even has a name in english. In icelandic it’s called krækiber (which would be pronounced crikey-bear, i suppose, hehe)

Anyway, it’s the blueberries I’m after, with a nerdy passion.  I’d always been under the assumption that there was only one kind of blueberry growing in southern Iceland, rather pale blue in color and growing very close to the ground.  My mother kept talking about the blueberries growing up North where she grew up, called “aðalbláber” which translates to “the main blueberry” or as my mom was clearly implying: “the real deal”.    Last year I discovered to my great delight that there are in fact TWO KINDS of these more elite blueberries to be found here in the south, along with the more common ones if you know where to look.  One kind is dark blue and the other  black and shiny, and they grow a bit larger than the other ones.  I’m not about to disclose where I pick them though.  The common paler blue ones are perfectly fine, taste pretty much the same, they’re just not as fun to pick, somehow.

So far, since mid-July, i’ve filled 4 or 5 one-liter ice-cream boxes with berries, stocking up the freezer so I’ll have enough to last me thru the winter, using them mostly instead of ice-cubes in smoothies.  Blueberries are purported to be bursting with antioxidant goodness, so consuming them uncooked in this way has its obvious benefits.  They’re quite sour, however, nothing like the giant blueberries found in the U.S., for instance, so it’s tempting to cook them into something sweet.  I’ve used them in jam, pie (i’ve tried both blueberry pie and blueberry/apple, which is better) and muffins,  and it’s all been delicious.  So much more fun baking with berries you pick out in the wild than store-bought stuff.

Here’s a recipe for blueberry muffins I use, it’s from Joy of Cooking (my bible in the kitchen, hands down the most informative and inclusive cookbook I’ve ever come across)  The pictures are added as extra incentive to do as I say and try them ;)

mix together in a large bowl:
280 g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend in a smaller bowl:
2 eggs
250 ml milk/ buttermilk/ sourcream/ cream or a mix of any of these
130 g sugar or brown sugar
60-115 g   melted butter or oil  (the more fat you use, the longer they stay moist)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the dry and wet ingredients, by hand, don’t overmix. The batter is not supposed to be smooth.
Fold in:
180 g fresh blueberries

sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking (about 12-15 minutes at 180°C).

Enjoy.

In closing: The picture at the top of this post shows the makings of 4-berry jam that I made with my son the other day.  In addition to blueberries, and the afore mentioned “krækiber”, we used red- and blackcurrants from my parents yard,  equal parts of each kind.  Used no recipe. 1600g berries to 1200g sugar, boiled for an hour or so, half of the mixture sieved to get out some of the seeds and skins,  and then everything pureed, and poured into sterilized jars ( i just boiled them one by one for a couple minutes).

Read 18 comments

18 comments for this post

Damn you got my mouth watering now!

I actually felt the berries burst in my mouth! Make a pot of coffee and I’ll be right over.

Michael wrote on August 7th, 2010

Love this post. I can almost feel the blueberries coming off the branch and rolling in my hand. I’m glad you’re carrying on your mother’s tradition. Great stills of the blueberries undergoing their metamorphosis ;)

Rebekka,

I live in The U.S., In Tennessee which is in the Mid/south. My husband and I own five acres. We grow berries and various fruit’s as well as a pretty large veggie garden.
A good friend of mine referred me to your website. Wow you are so talented. I love your photography, and sweaters, and now your berry recipes! It’s very interesting to hear about your culture, and in your picture’s seeing the landscape. Thx for sharing.

I hate not being able to eat sugar… oh well, gotta find me a substitute to use for jam (though I suppose without sugar it doesn’t really work).
You got me particularly interested in the Joy of Cooking. Is it the one by Irma S. Rombauer?

Yes Lisa, that’s the book i’m referring to. I requested it as a birthday present from my parents when I was 20, had heard about it.
It’s massive, and aside from having recipes for almost anything you can think of, ethnic cuisine as well as classic american stuff, it’s crammed with information on all sorts of things. I’ve spent lots of time just reading it for fun, for instance the other day I needed a good recipe for cake frosting, and instead of just finding one and trying it, I ended up reading the entire chapter on frosting. Whats particularly amazing is that the book manages to be so interesting despite the fact that it has no photos. Just the occasional drawing explaining techniques, but the recipes themselves are all un-illustrated. I found it off-putting at first, but then forgave them for it because if they tried to cram in pictures of everything as well, it would probably need to be in 5 volumes ;)
I’ve owned it for 12 years and still haven’t read nearly everything in it. Btw, the recipe i used to make the giant burger bun, came from this book (white sandwich bread), and i also read in there how to make fries ;)

jestem wrote on August 7th, 2010

In Alaska, the black berries are called crow berries. I don’t know if they even grow anywhere south of Canada.

yep, you’re right, i looked it up. They’re crow berries.

NoNamePlease wrote on August 7th, 2010

Ditto on the crow berries.
I was raised on “The Joy of Cooking” blueberry muffins!(Which kinda explains a few things about me — but shouldn’t dissuade others from trying the recipe.)

This year we’ve experienced a bumper-crop of blueberries in the northeast, keeping prices down even as panicked farmers look desperately for berry pickers to work their fields. (Blame the knuckle-headed, schizoid contradiction that is US immigration policy and agribusiness.) The net result is, I’m drinking more purple milkshakes and eating more spotty pancakes then I have in decades. And I couldn’t be more… eh, joyful?!

@Rebekka well, I guess then this book will be mine in the near future ;) I got a lot of cookbooks, and I especially like the two about cooking and baking in South Tyrol. These have the most delicious recipes I have ever come across (so far, that is.) Those books are only available in German and Italian though, but you would love them, I’m sure. They have all these wonderfully tasty kinds of bread down there, and one of those books mainly taught me how to make bread and homemade sourdough and stuff like that. They also explain all these details that usually don’t come with a simple recipe, but once you read and understood what’s behind most techniques you can do most things very independently and don’t have to measure everything. One gets this confidence to know how much is enough, and what goes well with something else.

Ah well, cooking really is one of my passions, very relaxing and fun :)

I’m exactly the same, i’ve gathered a lot of knowledge about technique and what works, and hardly ever follow recipes exactly, but rather look at them to get ideas if I’m trying something new. Sourdough is one of those things i learned way back, from a book called “Heritage of Southern Cooking” by Camille Glenn, which is also awesome (a book that goes against pretty much all modern health fads and low-fat eathing, but whatever, its so much fun to read and gives a fascinating glimpse into traditional dishes of the american deep south) . I used to bake bread every week, and would often keep a bowl of sourdough starter in the fridge all the time. Breadbaking is an incredibly soothing and pleasant thing to do, I rather regret that I have so little time for it these days.

Blueberries are finally in season around here and I’ve been gobbling them greedily. I can even buy wild blueberries from northern Ontario… tiny, super sweet and delicious. I remember going up there when I was a kid and canoeing from island to island, eating up whatever I could find.

I baked these up tonight and they are delicious. Thanks for posting and inspiring!

So beautiful and yummy! Thanks for the recipe!!

@Rebekka Well, since I moved tot he US I of course lacked the quality of bread I was used to (even though here in San Francisco you can get practically anything you want, even original bread from Germany). However, I took up baking bread about four weeks ago, and since then I am making one almost every two days (the apartment still smells from the bread I made two hours ago).
And a friend of ours who lives in the Bay Area has the Joy Of Cooking, so I will definitely take a peek when I’ll be back at her house in two weeks. I did try the Muffin recipe, even though I did not have blueberries (raisins had to suffice ;) ) they tasted great. And I used Stevia instead of sugar, which worked really well. So, if you should ever come across diabetics or anyone not able to have sugar you could use Stevia instead :)

I can also recommend Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food, he’s got a lot of tasty stuff in there one can easily adjust if there are certain things you don’t like about it. And I need to give you a recipe for a Foccacia Burger… yummy.

I need to go to Chinatown and get myself some exotic fruit, and then once again: Muffin time!

A is for Alyssa wrote on August 12th, 2010

Yum.

I was going to suggest Crowberry but I see someone beat me to it. I found and ate them in Labrador years ago and thought they might be what you had. Oh, Joy of Cooking is my basic cookbook too. Neat to know that others are just as impressed.

Went berry picking again today, got nearly 2 pounds of really plump ones (they’re at their peak now)
I just tried baking this muffin recipe as a cake, in a square tin, cutting it into pieces after cooling, instead of fussing with a muffin tin or cups. A lot quicker, tastes just as good ;)

[...] This is an unusual beach right at the tip of the peninsula.  Unlike the beach at Búðir, this one , contrary to the “sand” at the end of its name, is a broad expanse of small, smooth stones.  In order to reach the beach you first pass through a mossy area profuse with berries. (Remember to bring some empty containers if you’re here in berry season)  [...]

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