June 01, 2004

Les bluets

by peterb

Summer brings with it blueberries, as suddenly the geography of the world food distribution network becomes clear. One day, little 6 ounce packages of Mexican blueberries sell for $4. The next day, $3 buys you a pint of berries from South Carolina. And so it goes, through the summer, the prices getting lower and the berries getting better and being shipped from further north. As autumn arrives, there is a last gasp of late Canadian blueberries, and then finally we return to meagre, shrunken berries from distant lands south of the equator.

Frozen blueberries work better than other fruits, for the same reason that frozen peas do better than other vegetables. But they are still a poor substitute. When summer arrives, I eat blueberries by the bushel. With cream, whenever possible. They've got loads of healthy antioxidants, and more importantly they taste fantastic.

And so: bon appetit!

Posted by peterb at June 1, 2004 08:09 PM | Bookmark This

In my snob mode, I say that the only real blueberries come from Maine.

But, having had a son releases me from snob mode, and he'll eat almost anything that is blue and round until he is physically ill. So, GO GO GO.

Posted by psu at June 1, 2004 10:00 PM

"for the same reason that frozen peas do better"

But why is that? Because they're round? I agree, but I don't know why.

Posted by Kristen at June 1, 2004 11:10 PM

Because they're round and _small_, and therefore can be flash-frozen, and also defrost with a minimum of pain.

They're not quite as great as peas, because some of the structure of the berry tends to get damaged so they leak more juice, and typically the skins are a bit tougher. . But I think that's a result of how they're processed. I've had a brand of frozen (allegedly) wild blueberry that held their structure much better after defrosting, and didn't have the tough skin problem. They were great -- Wyman's (http://www.wymans.com). Much better than your generic frozen blueberries.

Quick cheap fast lazy recipe: take a 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream while stirring (if you don't stir you get a huge frozen blueberry mass, which is exciting in its own way, I guess). You now have fake blueberry ice cream. Eat immediately. The cream will tend to form a hard shell around the blueberries, like the chocolate sauce over Dairy Queen ice cream. It's the best thing ever.

Posted by peterb at June 2, 2004 02:16 AM

Well, I beg to differ that the best blueberries are really wild ones picked in the Adirondacks, but these are not commercially available, as you have to compete with bears for them.

I agree that Wyman's blueberries are great.

Posted by shelby at June 2, 2004 12:45 PM

I have a couple of blueberry bushes growing in containers, Bluecrop and Top Hat, I believe. This is the first year I'll get a harvest. Can't wait to eat 'em fresh.

But frozen blueberries are tops for smoothies. Put yogurt, milk (moo or soy), half a bag of frozen blueberries, and a touch of vanilla in the blender; thirty seconds later you're drinking the good stuff.

BTW, this is the first time I've seen the site (via cwinters.com). Consider it bookmarked.

For the record: Agreed that PF Chang's and its "high-end" ilk are veneers of pretension over typical chain-restaurant fare. To be avoided. Agreed that Upton Tea pretty much rules. (BTW, if you haven't visited "We Review Teas", do so: http://www.normbrero.com/cgi-bin/viewTea.cgi) Must disagree on La Primia vs. pulling your own shots. While it may be the best in Pittsburgh, it's sub-par by reasonable standards, often over-extracted. If you're serious about it -- and I think you would qualify -- you'll get much better out of a decent home machine and a *good* grinder (and lots of practice).

Oh, yeah, there ought to be a rant on tomatoes here. Just a suggestion.


Posted by tmoertel at June 9, 2004 01:07 AM

Thanks for the comments (and the recipe -- I'll have to try that).

How hard was getting your blueberry bushes started? Please report back after harvest time and let us know how it went.

I haven't had the experience of generally getting overextracted coffee at La Prima, but this could be due to variations in barista. One of my friends, for example, will engage in all sorts of gyrations and position-swapping just to make sure that Elio pulls his shot. We use the Solis Maestro / Rancilio Silvia combination at work. I like it a lot; just not as much as La Prima.

Posted by peterb at June 9, 2004 07:23 AM

If you would consider using soy in a _milk_shake, why should we take your word that you can make a better shot of espresso than La Prima?

Posted by shelby at June 9, 2004 07:27 AM

peterb: Yes, the blueberry bushes were tricky, mainly because at first I didn't properly account for the highly acidic soil that they prefer. But otherwise, I haven't observed that they are particularly needy.

The harvest, I can say by judging the green fruit already present, is going to be small. My Bluecrop is scrawny owing to the soil issue mentioned earlier, and the Top Hat is new this year. The Top Hat, however, is loaded with fruit. When it gets larger (and it does appear to grow with vigor), I should get a respectable harvest from it.

shelby: Who said anything about a _milk_shake? I wrote about _smooth_ies. Milkfat purity doctrine is inapplicable -- anything goes.

As to why you should trust that I can pull a better espresso than La Prima, let me appeal to your sense of reason. The typical shot size at LP is just too large, and you can taste it. You can improve upon it by putting less water through the puck. This is easy to do if you make your own, which I do. (This is hard to do if you own a coffee business, however, because the vast majority of your customers have American consumer sensibilites and don't want "skimpy" portions.)

One more piece of evidence, which I hope you will judge in my favor:

In any case, if La Prima makes the best espresso for *you*, than La Prima makes the best espresso, period. No true fan of espresso is going to tell you to do other than trust your own senses.


Posted by tmoertel at June 9, 2004 09:39 AM

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