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Blueberries for Sal

It was another good weekend. We headed to Maine after work on Friday and awoke to a perfectly blue sky on Saturday morning. It was chilly. In fact, the temperature was only 43 when Howard took Bella on her morning walk. Brrrrr. That’s a little cold for the first week of August!

This weekend was the Maine FiberArts Tour. I had read in the local (Maine) paper that there were two farms open for visiting in New Gloucester, so we went to see. First, we visited Acker’s Acres Angoras, where Beth has about 100 angora rabbits, and she spins their hair into yarn. I bought a skein and can’t wait to make a very soft scarf for the winter.

Next, we visited Betsey Leslie at Ewes to You. She was a very interesting person. She gave us an in-depth tour of her farm, walking us through the entire process from sheep to fleece to yarn. We met her 8 Border Leicester sheep, two parents and 6 offspring. She does everything by hand and had demos of her dying, carding, and spinning processes. She had a wonderful color palette, and I couldn’t resist and bought a skein of Spring Tweed, a blend of gold, blue, and green.

Shortly after we returned home, my cousin Debbie and her family returned from their trip to Acadia. We spent a pleasant evening hearing about their week of adventures. I gave Debbie a cooking lesson, teaching her to make last week’s guacamole. Then we all shared a dinner that everyone pitched in to make. Howard made the burgers. Debbie shucked the corn and made the salad. Scott sautéed the zucchini and summer squash. Michael made the salad dressing. Kyle kept us company. I guess I didn’t really do anything except supervise. After dinner, Scott, Kyle and I played Monopoly, and Scott creamed us. Fortunately, we set a time limit on the game, as Kyle and I were going down fast.

I took advantage of having company to make a Blueberry Bannock Scone for breakfast. In the past month, we’ve picked 3 or 4 quarts of blueberries from the bushes at our house in Maine, mostly from one abundant bush near the dock. Our blueberry picking is relaxed, home turf foraging, not a dramatic mother/child separation tale (human and bear) like my childhood favorite book, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey.

Mostly we’ve been eating them for breakfast with melon or yogurt. I wanted to make this breakfast cake, which is baked like a cake, but you cut it into wedges. It isn’t very sweet and has the texture of scones with a blueberry filling. It seemed like the perfect thing to make for company, especially because it’s not something that Howard would ever eat and not something I need to each all of!

Blueberry Bannock Scone
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1¼ c all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan and your hands
½ c finely chopped almonds (or almond meal)
½ c wheat germ
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup (5-1/3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled
½ c buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries
1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 400F. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour (to prevent sticking) and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, almonds, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp of the sugar. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers (or cut in with a pastry blender or fork), until it has the consistency of small crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk with 1 of the eggs. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. The dough will be wet and sticky.

Divide the dough in half. With well-floured hands, pat one half into a 9-inch circle on the floured baking sheet. Spread the blueberries over the circle, and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar. On a lightly floured piece of wax or parchment paper, pat the rest of the dough into a another 9-inch circle. DON’T FORGET TO FLOUR YOUR HANDS. Carefully place the dough on the wax paper on top of the dough with blueberries, like a sandwich. Gently press the edges together.

Beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the egg wash over the top of the scone cake. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Once it’s cool, you can cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 8 or more.


Happy 4th of July

For me, the highlight of the weekend was the new range. For some reason, the previous owners of our house in Maine opted to install an antique range from the 1930’s, the same kind that Howard spotted Mary Bailey using in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It was cute and vintage, but not that functional. Rumor has it that the previous owners didn’t really cook. I think that must be true.

For one thing the oven never regulated. It had a thermostat, but regardless of the setting, it just kept getting hotter and hotter. That made it difficult to bake anything. I dealt with it, but it was frustrating. The stovetop worked, but, because the oven was on the side, the workspace was awkward. You couldn’t really use more than two burners at once. If the pot or pan was large, you could really only use one at a time.

So, after almost 6 years, we decided to get a new range. We found the perfect replacement, a new range with a vintage look that fit the original space almost exactly. Welcome to our new Aga range!

For the inaugural bake, I made a cherry crisp. We had some leftover sweet cherries, plus I bought a bag of sour cherries at the farmers market earlier in the week. I didn’t bring pans or a rolling pin to Maine, so a pie wasn’t an option. However, a fruit crisp has the same fruit and topping combo with much less fuss. I made a batch of topping similar to the crumble topping from the sour cherry tart I made recently, using ginger and sliced almonds instead of cardamom and pistachios. The oven did its job perfectly. I set the thermostat to 350F. After 40 minutes, the fruit was bubbly and the topping was browned. Nothing burned. Success!

For Howard, the highlight of the weekend was probably raspberry picking at Goss Berry Farm. We discovered this pick-your-own place in Mechanic Falls, Maine, maybe three years ago. Their bushes are planted in neat, perfectly tied up rows. Howard finds it inspiring for the raspberries in our own yard. It’s cute how excited he gets as we walk into the fields. This time, we saw the coolest mechanized picker that must go down the rows and gently knock the berries off the plants. We didn’t see it in action, so can only speculate.

We picked 6 quarts of the beautiful, perfect raspberries. I made about two-thirds of them into raspberry jam (similar to the strawberry jam I told you about a few weeks ago). The rest we’ve been eating for breakfast. But, before they are gone, I hope to make a raspberry tart. I put together the crust tonight. It’s chilling as we speak. That should be dessert tomorrow.