Although we grow many berries on our condensed city lot: serviceberries, honeyberries, raspberries, alpine strawberries, I have never had the wherewithal or luck in growing blueberries. They are stubbornly particular about their living conditions, and I haven’t been the most hospitable gardener when it comes to keeping up. But even though our property blesses us with fruit, we are gluttonous, and so each mid-summer we pack a picnic and sunhats and bug spray, and drive an hour southeast of the city to the enchanted Rush River farm in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin.
Once we bend away from Hwy 10 things start rolling, green hills contouring, and all things lighten, including traffic. The car climbs steadily, up into the atmosphere of the Mississippi River Valley, where the bluffs are surprisingly majestic. Rounding a wide bend we take the familiar turnoff, and snake our way along the gravel road that eventually ends at the distinct white farmhouse. It is here where we gleefully pour out of the car, stretch our limbs, smell the air, and nod past the rows of gooseberries and currants. We are here for the blueberries, and there are nine acres of them, soldiered endlessly down the hill.
My young daughter grabs her long and shallow cardboard box and darts into the berries. I won’t see her for a while, and when I do she’ll be flushed and a little lightheaded from eating too many berries too quickly. It’s inevitable and traditional; it is always hot when we pick and she can’t help herself. I like to pick alone too, and listen to the stories people tell one another while they pick nearby. I have heard some of the most tender things in those fields.
After the sun has overly-cooked us we have a picnic beneath an ancient tree, and sigh. Another year of blueberry picking is over, we lament. Time for heading back along the contours, where I’ll resolve what to do with our harvest. Always my first thought: clafoutis.
Serves about 6
The rustic clafoutis is a sturdy custard pudding that is studded with fruit. To me, it is delicate and refreshing, and a most elegant summertime dessert. Each year, at the height of blueberry season, after we’ve picked boxes of blueberries from our favorite U-Pick farm, this is the first dish our blueberries fold into. I bring this dessert to summertime potlucks since it is so simple to pull together, and is a bit of a nice surprise to those at the table. Although this recipe asks for blueberries, any berry or any fruit really, can be substituted. Also, I ask you to bake this in a casserole dish, but you can always bake this into individual ramekins if you like. So much room for play!
4 large, sustainable eggs
All-purpose flour (2/3 cup)
Fine sugar ((1/2 cup)
¾ cup cream
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
Kirsch, cognac, or orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
2 cups blueberries
Making the Batter
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Liberally butter a ceramic or earthenware baking dish (about 2-quart size), or a 10-inch cast-iron pan or heavy pie pan. In a blender (or food processor, or large bowl) add 4 large, sustainable eggs (preferably room temperature), 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup fine sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3/4 cup cream, 1 cup milk (preferably whole), pinch of kosher salt, and 1-2 tablespoons Kirsch, cognac, or orange-flavored liqueur (optional), and blend until combined.
Add about 2 cups fresh blueberries into the baking dish in an even layer, and pour the batter over. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until it has evenly puffed and is golden, and is just firm to the touch. Allow it to cool on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes; watch for the clafoutis to deflate a bit.
Once it’s cooled down, dust over some powdered sugar. Serve it either in wedges, or spoon servings out. Serve this dish at room temperature, but store in the refrigerator, well-covered, for up to a few days.