What do you do when you pick 12 pounds of blueberries? Make muffins, a pie, and maybe a few dozen more muffins.
Last week, my family and I trekked to Mountain View Farm in Lanesborough for a socially-distant, safe outdoor activity that would help us kill a few hours of my 5-year-old son's limitless energy. Armed with masks, sunscreen and two large cardboard boxes we started picking with the promise that we "wouldn't get too many." Famous last words of hungry foragers.
Outside, overlooking the beautiful mountains, with a breeze and countless ripe blueberries all around you, 12 pounds doesn't look like that much. But once I got home and started washing the berries, weeding out the shriveled or hard, under-ripe ones that sneaked in, I started to worry, "What am I going to do with all of these berries?"
First, I took the advice of the very helpful woman running the farm's cashier hut, who suggested the best way to freeze the berries for future use is to flash freeze them in a single layer on a flat baking sheet so the berries freeze individually. Then, put them all in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag and freeze again. This way, you won't have one big blue block of blueberry mush when you pull them out in a few months.
OK, that left me with about 8 pounds of blueberries after freezing. Next up, I tried a blueberry pie recipe suggested to me by Calendar Editor and resident baker extraordinaire Meggie Baker. For the pie, you simply combine 5 to 6 cups of fresh berries, 4 tablespoons of flour, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. You pour the berry mixture into your favorite unbaked pie-crust lined dish and dot with two pats of butter. Then, cover with the top pie crust using a lattice, so the juices have space to bubble up. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 425 degrees F, then bake another 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let cool before slicing so the juices have time to set.
This blueberry pie was so delicious, my family polished it off in three days and requested I make another. In an effort to show some restraint, I did make another, but froze it before baking so it can be enjoyed at another time.
So that left me with another, 4 pounds, give or take a few berries, for me to use up. (I told you, I have a lot of blueberries in my house right now ...)
Time for a muffin bake-off!
After some Internet research and suggestions from friends, I decided on two popular muffin recipes, each with a promise of a slightly different, yet delicious outcome. Smitten Kitchen's Perfect Blueberry Muffins are wonderfully moist, with a hint of fresh lemon and get better with age if you don't eat them all in one day. The famously retro, tried-and-true Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins — a recipe from the now-closed department store — are a bit denser in texture, but sweeter and with an excellent crunchy topping thanks to a healthy dose of sugar on top. You simply can't go wrong with either, as I learned.
But now, what to do with the last 2 pounds of blueberries?
Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
Finely grated zest from 1/2 a lemon
3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt or sour cream
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups blueberries
3 tablespoons turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar
Heat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or spray each cup with a nonstick spray. Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl and whisk in sugar, zest, yogurt and egg until smooth. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda and salt until fully combined, then lightly fold in flour and berries. The batter will be thick. Divide between prepared muffin cups and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then the rest of the way on a rack.
Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins
Recipe courtesy of The New York Times
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups blueberries, washed
3 teaspoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cream the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light. Then, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
Crush 1/2 cup blueberries with a fork, and mix into the batter. Fold in the remaining whole berries.
Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners, and fill with batter. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar over the tops of the muffins, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove muffins from tin and cool at least 30 minutes. Store, uncovered, or the muffins will become too moist the second day.