Love Ontario Blueberries
We are so lucky to live in Ontario and enjoy such wonders of deliciousness when it comes to local produce in season. This past weekend I was in Norfolk county celebrating one of my favourite berries-blueberries!
My children as much as myself, happen to have a big love affair with blueberries. I have so many photos of purple stained little faces as they continue to pop juicy berries in their mouths when they were babies. Luckily now as they have gotten older their faces are not quite as dirty and they are now able to pick blueberries and enjoy a few along the way.
The Zelem family are wonderful hard working Ontario farmers who start their season with juicy sweet strawberries and asparagus then move into blueberries and raspberries. With their road side market stand filled with their delicious berries as well as the produce and products of other local Norfolk county and vicinity farms you can shop and enjoy to your heart and tummy’s content!
These big blue beauties can easily grow to be the size of your thumbnail if not larger! If you want to pop in and pick up a few berries for you to enjoy you certainly can but why not pick your own! Blueberries are so much fun to pick as you pop a few in your mouth you will taste the sweet flavour of success that picking has to offer. I did notice many families with kids of all ages in the fields picking and certainly enjoying themselves on such a beautiful warm summer’s day.
This year marked the 2nd Blueberry Festival at Kent Kreek Berries and I think an even bigger success. With people coming from all around to enjoy the wonderful local produce but also the petting zoo of animals and birds of prey demonstration. Not to mention being able to climb and sit in some John Deere tractors, kids were instantly enamoured. A fun blue bouncy and slice castle was a fun addition and face painting is always a welcome treat to faces big and small.
This is such a wonderful community event and it is a great way to check out our local farms and see what they do. They are hard working families and I’m happy to have been a part of the festival this year again.
As the baskets starting filling up my mind did too. Oh what to make when we got home, pie, jam, pancakes, tarts, muffins... The list could continue. Oh and some for the freezer, what an important part of my morning as I add at least 1/2 cup (125 mL) of blueberries to my smoothies to add a special zing and great purple colour to start my day. Filled with antioxidants and delicious flavour adding blueberries to just about anything is a great start to any day.
There is something to be said for such a healthy and tasty blueberry that I would not hesitate to let my kids continue to eating them as we drove back home in the car. In fact, while watching a movie later that night and the next day I saw the blueberry basket on my daughter’s lap and of course I smiled and she said “What?” She had no idea that I was proud of her for making that choice even though in the back of my mind the thought of a slightly purple couch popped in briefly! I’m happy to say that blueberries are at their peak right now and will be for a couple of weeks. Paula and Jeff Zelem are planning to harvest until about mid August, so be sure to enjoy a drive (I recommend the back roads as we saw some wonderful corn fields and other road side stands along the way) to set out on an adventure that will leave your tummy feeling happy and create a memory that will be unforgettable. But don’t forget about heading back, once you hit that roadside stand you will return for ice cream, asparagus chips, corn and later squash and pumpkins. Just another crop that they grow on the farm to help us put delicious fresh local fruits and vegetables on our tables to feed our families.
While I spent my day at Kent Kreek berries I had some treats to share with farm visitors and talked to them about how versatile blueberries are. Whether used in sweet or savoury cooking they will offer up their natural sweetness and deep blue/purple colour to create memorable food. I have to say that the Blueberry Balsamic Compote was a big hit as was the Blueberry Margarita Punch. Nothing like enjoying a cold refreshing drink on a hot day. I hope you enjoy these recipes that showcase our delicious local Ontario Blueberry crop, I’m going to go finish my snack of blueberries and wipe the evidence clean.
Balsamic Blueberry Compote
This compote is perfect to serve with your favourite roast or alongside a cheese platter for a twist.
Makes 1 1/2 cups (375 mL).
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (750 mL) fresh Ontario blueberries
3 tbsp (45 mL) aged balsamic vinegar
Pinch each salt and fresh ground pepper
In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook shallot, garlic and blueberries, stirring often for 5 minutes or until softened. Add vinegar; cover and reduce heat to medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove lid and stir salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes or until thickened slightly. Let cool completely before serving.
Tip: A great option to serve with grilled pork roast or chops or chicken. I served this compote on small crackers spread with goat cheese and topped with the compote. I had many return for thirds and fourths!
Blueberry Margarita Punch Bowl
Your next get together should include a unique drink like this! Leave out the tequila for a kid friendly version.
Makes about 8 cups (2 L).
3 cups (750 mL) blueberry juice
2 cups (500 mL) orange juice
2 cups (500 mL) limeade or lemonade
2 cups (500 mL) frozen Ontario blueberries
1 lime, sliced
In a large punch bowl or pitcher combine blueberry and orange juice, limeade, tequila if using and blueberries. Add ice cubes and lime and stir well before serving.
Tip: I chopped some fresh mint and mashed it up with the lime before putting it into the pitcher which added another fresh summer flavour. Once the punch is done be sure to freeze the remaining blueberries and mind in ice cube trays and fill with water. Freeze them to add more flavour to your water the next day or your next batch of punch!
Blueberry Almond Mini Muffins
Fresh blueberries are a wonderful addition to your baked goods, these muffins are perfect to enjoy with coffee in the morning or a late afternoon snack for the kids.
Makes 24 mini muffins.
3/4 cup (175 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) large flake oats
1/3 cup (75 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda
1 cup (250 mL) vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2 mL) almond extract
1 cup (250 mL) fresh Ontario blueberries
1/3 cup (75 mL) slivered or sliced almonds
In a large bowl, whisk together all purpose and whole wheat flours, oats, baking powder and soda; set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together yogurt, egg, sugar, oil, vanilla and almond extracts. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Stir in blueberries. Spoon into 24 paper lined or greased mini muffin tin. Sprinkle tops with almonds.
Bake in 400 F (200 C) oven for about 15 minutes or until golden and tester comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving.
Tips: Some farm visitors suggested they would use melted butter or coconut oil in these muffins and I think that would make for an easy substitution for the canola oil.
You can also make regular size muffins for bigger hands!
I have to admit the first batch of these muffins I forgot the sugar and you know what? They were still delicious!