The other day, Mama took me blueberry picking. By now you realize that she keeps a pretty close eye on what I eat, and I think you know she tries to purchase foods that are local and organic—when they make sense. Blueberries are consistently among the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” of fruits and veggies with the most pesticides, but because Mama doesn’t always want to pay $6 for a pint of organic berries, we often skip them. For this reason, she was overjoyed to find the organic fruit farm just a short drive from our house. And it turned out to be a fun afternoon activity with yours truly.
I couldn’t believe how little the bushes were! I walked right up to them, bucket in hand, and just started picking (and eating). It was like when we picked the wild raspberries: from the bush and into my mouth.
The berries were warm from the sun. Mama reminded me, often, to pick just the blue ones—not the purple ones, and not the green ones. We saw all kinds of big caterpillars on the leaves. The farmer, when he came over to snack from a bush, told us they sure love blueberries. Much like Sal in that famed story, I did wander off from time to time, and Mama had to chase me up and down the rows. But we managed to fill her bucket (for some reason, mine remained empty), and I played with the two farm dogs roaming the property. We picked nearly 5 pounds (but they didn’t weigh me!), all for $12.
When we got home, Mama spent a lot of time washing the berries and fending me off from eating them by the handfuls. They had a lot of grass clippings—and bugs!—on them. I helped her de-stem them, too. (That’s a very good task to give someone my age…until said someone starts snacking on them, stems and all.) Because most of our haul was intended for the freezer, Mama spread the berries on a towel-lined cookie sheet so they could dry. (This is why you can buy frozen berries that are separate and perfect, rather than in clumps—they’re individually quick frozen.) You spread them out on a sheet, make sure they’re relatively dry, then pop the sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put them in storage bags or containers. We got 3 sheets of bluebies.
As they were drying, Mama asked what we should make, and I agreed that muffins sounded good. I’ve never made a recipe quite like this one before. Mama melted the butter in a saucepan and added the other wet ingredients to it before adding them to the dry. Weird, huh? Usually, you’d use oil in a two-stage recipe, she told me, but we like butter! It’s been a while since I’ve baked anything, and Mama was impressed with how far I’ve come. I poured all the dry ingredients into the bowl without spilling—the mess came later when I whisked it like a dervish.
Once everything was combined, I added the bluebies to the batter, then helped Mama fold them in. She explained that if we stirred them too vigorously, they would crush and stain the batter blue. Not that it would affect the taste any, but we wouldn’t have those lovely whole berries to sink our teeth into later on.
She showed me how quickly you can make a crumb topping, and I helped sprinkle it on top of each muffin. Into the oven they went, and off I went to play. I was experiencing some sort of natural berry high and had a lot of energy.
But not too much to keep Mama from giving me half a muffin once it cooled a bit. (She thinks I didn’t notice she ate the other half.)
Regardless, there were so many bluebies in it! The muffin itself wasn’t very sweet, but the bluebies made up for that. And they were good and crumbly in my hand.
Mama said she wants to go picking again next weekend to stock up for the winter. I hope we do!
Bursting Bluebie Muffins with Crumb Topping
6 Tbsp unsalted butter (or canola oil, then skip the saucepan direction)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk)
2 eggs (or 4–5 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose total)
1/2 cup sugar (or brown)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup blueberries
handful of whole-wheat flour
spoonful of brown sugar
spoonful of finely chopped walnuts (optional)
a few pats of butter
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or spray 12 muffin cups (or use paper liners, if that’s your thing). Melt the butter over low heat, then whisk in the milk, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (minus the blueberries), whisking to incorporate. Add the wet to the dry, stir until just combined, then gently fold in the blueberries. Top with the topping ingredients, mashed to combine. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then, if you didn’t use papers, run a knife around the edges to loosen. Transfer to a rack to cool or eat!