Saturday, March 15, 2008

Drawing Down Inventory: Frozen Blueberries

blueberry frozen2 copyI see from my calendar that it is March 15. As Caesar was so presciently warned, beware the ides of March! If you’re not careful, the first bumper crops of rhubarb* or asparagus will be here, and you will discover that you have not a square inch of freezer space in which to store them. Granted, this is not nearly so bad as being assassinated, but it can have its own fateful consequences. So, if you have not been doing so all winter—or if, like me, you have been but still have a good way to go on last summer’s fruits and vegetables before next summer’s comes in—it’s time to start drawing down inventory with a vengeance worthy of Brutus.
Start with the early-season items and work your way forward. My small amount of rhubarb is gone. I never froze any asparagus, so no pressure on that account. I have one jar of strawberry jam left, which I have moved from the freezer to the refrigerator for present consumption. Up next: the blueberries.
Frozen blueberries are an excellent substitute for fresh for most cooking and baking, from sauces and jams to cakes, pancakes, and muffins. The only thing I don’t like them for are pies and crisps; some people, not naming names, do use them for these purposes, but I think their water content is too high, both requiring too much added starch and sugar and having lost some of the requisite intensity of flavor.
For this reason I rarely make blueberry muffins with fresh blueberries: in season, they go into pies. But I love a good blueberry muffin, and have a few favorite recipes. One, which I will spare you, is an old-fashioned small, plain but rich muffin made with all lard; it is, truth be told, the one of which I am most fond. Another is a much larger, cakier, considerably sweeter muffin purported to be the original Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe. One is always coming across recipes claiming to be the original this or that, but I think mine just might be authentic. I have had it since the 1970s, and acquired it while I was living in Boston—I think it was printed in the Boston Globe. Jordan Marsh was in its heyday at the time, and its flagship store, where the muffins were sold, was mere steps from my office. I ate them several times a week, and this recipe produces the real thing.
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
These muffins are loaded with berries, providing an excellent way to draw down your inventory. They are very good. The recipe is exactly as it was printed, except that I have added details to the instructions. Makes 12 large muffins, or 8 huge ones.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups a-p flour
1 cup sugar
2 large brown eggs
½ cup milk
1 tea pure vanilla extract
2 tea baking powder
½ tea salt
2 ½ cups blueberries
2 tea sugar for sprinkling on topblueberry froz muffin cooked3 copy
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a standard muffin tin, including the top surface. Use paper liners if you like; Jordan Marsh didn't, but they are easier to remove and freeze better if you do.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy; reduce to low and add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended; ramp up the speed again to medium-high and beat for another minute, or until you have a thick but still very fluffy batter. Sift the dry ingredients together and add them at low speed to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry. Mash ½ cup blueberries with a fork (you will need to bring ½ cup of your frozen ones to room temperature or nuke them for about 20 seconds first) and stir them in with a wooden spoon, which will turn the batter a uniform taupe-y purple. Gently fold in the 2 cups whole frozen berries.
Spoon the batter into the tin, piling it high in each cup. Sprinkle the tops with the extra sugar; you can add a little cinnamon or cardamom if you like. Bake for 30 minutes or more, until golden, and allow to cool in the pan on a rack for an additional 30 minutes before turning out, as they are very tender.
blueberry froz muf4 copy
* Speaking of rhubarb, I have a short article on this amazing vegetable in the current issue of Edible Rhody magazine.

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