MY LIFE - A blueberry kind of day

MY LIFE - A blueberry kind of day

Although I have only been awake a scant 15 minutes or so, with hardly enough time to even get the sleep out of my eyes, I am aware of the fact that it’s a blueberry kind of day. The temperature right now is 64 and slated to climb no higher than the mid-80s with low humidity and with not even a hint of rain in the forecast. And as if that were not enough to get me up and moving, there is also the fact that an online notice just yesterday from the blueberries place in Franklin, Mass., alerted me to the fact that although their season will soon be winding down, the berries are still ripe and plentiful, just waiting to be picked.

Actually, this will be my third time out there picking this year, and if I want my share of the dwindling crop, I’d best get a move on. In the case of berry picking, the early bird not only gets the worm, but the early picker gets the easiest to reach berries.

I have written before about what I describe as my genetically inherited need to “hunt and gather,” to put up and put by, to preserve, and to store the summer’s bounty for use during the cold, snowy, barren months of winter. Intellectually I know the supermarkets will be full of all the good things in life no matter the weather, but deep down inside the mysterious depths of my being, that primitive need still goads me into action.

Last week, I cleaned out my jelly cabinet, disposing of outdated jars and ready to use what remains of last year’s batch ... one jar of blueberry that I just opened and three jars of peach jam that are already spoken for. That done, I cleaned out the few remaining bags of berries from the small freezer out back and cooked them down into an even dozen jars of jam for this year.

I have been harvesting my bumper crop of basil every two or three days to keep it from bolting and going to seed, turning some of it into pesto, now frozen and neatly stacked in the freezer. I am also trying something new that I just recently heard about ... preserving fresh basil by heavily layering it with salt in a glass container. I Googled it for more information, and sure enough, it’s a real thing. So with nothing to lose but a big box of kosher salt, I filled a large glass jug to the brim and will wait to see how well it works, although I may still hedge my bets with a refrigerated jar preserved with salt and oil, just in case.

Chives will soon be cut, chopped, and frozen in zippered bags. Another mix of chives, parsley, and tarragon will be chopped and frozen for use on scrambled eggs (it is a flavor to die for!). I will need to harvest and freeze a small bag of sage, too, especially since I recently tried it quick-fried with chicken in butter. Gotta save some for the winter.

Today’s fresh picked blueberries will join those from last week in the freezer. Not quite as many as in previous years since I have cut back a bit on my baking, but enough to keep me happy until picking time rolls around again next year. I like to package them two cups per freezer bag, the perfect measure for a one-dozen batch of the overloaded muffins I like to make.

I also keep a bag of them in the kitchen freezer for easy access. Sometimes when I want something light for supper, I just reach in and grab a handful of berries and cook them into a giant pancake and then drizzle it with some of the maple syrup I buy from the sugar shack near my daughter Kathy’s house in New Hampshire. It takes some of the sting out of winter.

So far, with this year’s pickings I have made an open face blueberry tart ... what Kathy and the French call a galette, the Italians call a crostata, and others often refer to as rustic or artisan tarts. Call them what you will, they are delicious and my favorite way to make a pie since it eliminates half the crust which is my least favorite part of the pie anyway.

In case you’re not familiar with this kind of really-easy-to-make pie, you just place one round of pie dough in or on a baking surface, fill it with one layer of fruit to within an inch and a half of the edge, then fold it over to cover the outer edge of the pie and bake it until the crust is browned and the filling bubbles. Easy peasy and so much lighter than a standard pie. Works great with apples, sliced, and dusted with a bit of cinnamon and sugar. That’s it.

But getting back to the blueberries, I also baked the big, ill-fated, fat-free cobbler I confessed to screwing up in last week’s column, although the whole thing did get eaten. And I have had blueberry pancakes twice in the last week.

And now I’m off. Blueberries will be picked. They will be packed and frozen. I may even make the blueberry lemon cake, for which I have at least three Xeroxed copies of the same recipe but have never yet made, but for which I finally remembered to buy the sour cream called for in each of the three recipes (all identical) that have tempted me each and every time I have seen them.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.