Tart treats of a New Hampshire summer
Blueberries take over the farmstands & pie fillings
By Susan Manley email@example.com
When presidential candidate Barack Obama stopped at the Peterborough Diner recently, he added a slice of blueberry pie to his photo op.
The Live Free or Die state is known for its blueberries — and luckily for those of us who live here, while the season is short, it certainly is sweet. Locally, there are more than a dozen pick-your-own farms that let you get down and dirty with the berry bushes. Or visit your local farmers’ market and be sure to check specials at local restaurants and bakeries, where over the next few weeks, blueberries are likely to be the focus of many dishes, sweet and savory.
Jeff Paige, chef and co-owner of Cotton in Manchester, serves up a salad special of organic greens from Nesenkeag Farm of Litchfield, toasted almonds, Great Hill Bleu cheese, fresh, local blueberries and maple balsamic vinaigrette ($7).
“The blueberries add a unique quality to this salad, they really are something special,” Paige said.
At Julien’s Corner Kitchen in Manchester, chef and owner Julien Pepin said that during blueberry season, everyone wants fresh blueberries on their pancakes and waffles.
“It’s just crazy, but the blueberries really do make everything feel like summer,” Pepin said. Julien’s Corner Kitchen also offers a fresh fruit cup that is heavy on the local blueberries.
At Michael Timothy’s in Nashua, chef Steve Narducci said that one of his cooks just approached him about making a blueberry sauce for a meat or fish dish.
“I’m not sold on the idea. You have to be careful to strike the right notes with blueberries and protein. Around here people really don’t seem to go for fruit with their meats,” he said.
Michael Timothy’s is looking for other creative ways to capitalize on the short local blueberry season.
“I’m sure we’ll come up with something fantastic,” Narducci said.
Pie-wise, blueberry pies seem to be a treat that you need to order ahead. At Kay’s Bakery in Manchester, blueberry pie ($11.95) requires 24 hours’ notice, and at Michelle’s Gourmet Pastries, Manchester, a blueberry pie ($9.25) requires 48 hours’ notice.
Patisserie Bleu, Nashua, will have blueberry pies ($13) hit or miss, so best to call ahead and check or place an order. Lala’s Hungarian Pastry, Manchester, offers a fresh blueberry crossover ($1.50) that is a true summer treat.
Picking your own
When picking your own, go early in the morning or in late afternoon; otherwise the sun is too hot. Call the farm ahead of time to be sure they still have a crop.
Blueberries grow in grape-like clusters on a bush and the easiest way to pick blueberries is to hold your bucket under the berry cluster 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 (the berries with a reddish tint) will remain attached to the bush.
Chill berries soon after picking to increase shelf life. If refrigerated, fresh-picked blueberries will keep 10 to 14 days, but don’t wash until just before eating or they can become mushy.
To freeze blueberries, place in freezer containers without washing. Place berries one layer deep and when frozen, pour the frozen berries into freezer containers.
Because the unwashed blueberries freeze individually, they can be easily poured from containers in desired amounts. Just before using, wash the blueberries in cold water; they will defrost quickly.