Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Picking Blueberries at The Blueberry Patch

The latest issue of Edible Columbus (Summer 2012) has an article on a berry farm north of Columbus. It is currently blueberry season at The Blueberry Patch, which has something like 27,000 blueberry bushes. I spent an hour or so this morning picking two varieties, a gallon of each. Fifteen pounds of blueberries ripening in the hot sun. Some are going to end up as blueberry jam, the rest will emerge from the oven as blueberry pie or crisp. (Raspberries and blackberries will be in season in mid-July.)

I briefly spoke with the owner, Steve Beilstein, as I was picking. The bushes take about five years to mature, and a mature bush can provide up to six pounds of berries per season. Even cutting that estimate in half, a half dozen bushes could provide around two gallons of berries a year. The Blueberry Patch is a family-owned and family-run farm producing some of the best blueberries available.

What follows is the world's easiest recipe for fruit crisp. It requires about two quarts of fruit, which can consist of apples, peaches, blueberries, blackberries and/or raspberries, cherries, or strawberry & rhubarb, depending on what is in season. You can put it together in 10 minutes.

Mix together 3/4 cup each of flour, dark brown sugar, and oatmeal in a bowl, add some cinnamon and/or nutmeg, a little salt, and then mix in one stick of melted butter. In a separate bowl, toss the fruit with the appropriate amount of corn starch (none for apples, 1-2 tbsp. for peaches and rhubarb and blueberries, about 2 tbsp. for other berries). The more juicy the fruit, the more corn starch is needed. Add some granulated sugar to the fruit, again the amount depending on the fruit. Apples and peaches require very little, blueberries a bit more, and sour berries and cherries a lot. It's to your taste. I add a little almond extract for blueberries and cherries. Pour the fruit into a baking dish so it is at least 1" high, crumble the topping evenly over the fruit, and bake 45 min at 375 °F until the topping has darkened and the fruit is vigorously bubbling. Don't fill the baking dish too full, or it will bubble over and make a mess. Serve warm.

We have seven blueberry bushes at Dogs Run Farm. I think I will put in another seven next year. Let's see: 14 x 6 = 84 lbs. of blueberries. That should be enough to keep us in blueberry crisp and pie for the summer.

UPDATE: June 28th - One gallon of blueberries makes a whole lot of jam. Three batches made 12 half-pints and four pints. Plus one pie and I've still got over a half gallon left. Time to make room in the freezer.

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