Berry, berry good
Most states have a state bird, a state flower and a state tree. But Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that have a state muffin. In 1988, Minnesota adopted the blueberry muffin as its state muffin. And Minnesota doesn't even rate as a b...
Most states have a state bird, a state flower and a state tree. But Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that have a state muffin.
In 1988, Minnesota adopted the blueberry muffin as its state muffin. And Minnesota doesn't even rate as a blueberry producer. The leading blueberry states are Michigan, Maine, New Jersey and Oregon. But I think the muffin mavens were thinking of commercial production and not those beautiful berries that grow in the wild.
The only time in my life I've picked wild blueberries was long ago in northern Minnesota near Hibbing. Five of us sallied out into the forest's edge armed with large enameled basins and gathered enough blueberries for dozens of pies, jams and, of course, muffins. They were the best blueberries I have ever eaten.
For those interested in the blueberry clan, they are members of the Ericaceae family, genus Vaccinium, subgenus Cyanococcus, and this blueberry is one of the few native North American fruits. Blueberries are related to cranberries, huckleberries, lignonberries and bilberries.
Blueberries have been cultivated since the late 1800s, but for centuries, American Indians gathered blueberries and ate them both fresh and dried them for later use. Northeast American Indian tribes called them "star berries" because the calyx of a blueberry is star-shaped.
Processed blueberries are usually used in baked goods such as sweet breads, muffins, pies and cakes. The juice is diluted by adding sugar and citric acid and then combined with other juices such as cranberry.
But blueberries are also appropriate in savory dishes. I have made all of the recipes below and find the blueberries a tasty addition to the chicken, soup and salad.
Chicken Breasts with Blueberries and Garlic
3 pounds boned chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons honey
6 sprigs thyme
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Wash chicken breasts and trim them of fat and tendons. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy frying pan and sauté chicken in batches, until nicely browned. Remove to a plate.
In a small pan, cover garlic cloves with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover the pan. Poach for about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool garlic and remove skins. Set aside.
In the same pan used to sauté the chicken, sauté onion in remaining butter until softened. Add honey, thyme, garlic and 1/2 cup water. Simmer briefly to reduce liquid, stirring often. Remove thyme.
Add blueberries. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and salt and simmer until mixture has thickened slightly. Correct seasoning. The sauce should have a pleasing sweet and sour flavor.
Arrange chicken on a platter and spoon sauce on top. Serves 6.
(Loosely based on a recipe by Chef/Owner Cory Schreiber of the Wildwood Restaurant in Portland, Ore.)
Chilled Fresh Blueberry Soup
4 quarts fresh blueberries
1 cup apple juice
½ cup honey or to taste
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest to taste (yellow part only)
2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamon
1 cup plain yogurt or crème fraiche
In a blender or food processor, combine blueberries, apple juice, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest and cardamom. Strain through a fine sieve. Chill mixture. Serve soup in chilled bowls with a dollop of yogurt on top. Makes about 8 cups.
(Adapted from a recipe by Chef Lou Piuggi at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room)
Blueberry and Gorgonzola Salad
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 cups mixed salad greens such as bibb lettuce, red leaf and Belgian endive
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
To prepare dressing, combine oil, sour cream, honey, vinegar, poppy seeds, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender. Break up the greens into bite-sized pieces and In a serving bowl, toss them with dressing and blueberries. Crumble Gorgonzola on the top and toss again. Serves 4.
(Adapted from a recipe by Executive Chef Albert Paris at Zanzibar Blue in Philadelphia )
Readers can reach Forum columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org