23 July 2008

The Bluest

Blueberries are in season in Oh-hia-ia.

That one, simple statement is enough to get a mile-wide grin on my face. I love blueberries. I love them lots. I'll eat them just until I make myself ill, or just almost to that point. Blueberry muffins. Blueberries in my protein smoothies. Blueberry sorbet. The only thing that I'm not particularly keen on is blueberry jam. Meh.

The muffins, though, those are such fun. I use an old recipe, one that has a story behind it.

When I was a kid, we would spend part of every summer in a cottage on a lake in Michigan, a place that is a long haul from my Ohio home. A place whose name is magic to my sisters and I. There was no television. An old radio that was usually off, unless we wanted a weather forecast, sat in the living/dining room. The telephone was a party line phone. Really. Even well in to the 80s, the line at the cottage was shared with several neighbors. An oddity, but we loved it, because no one could reach us there. At home, from time-to-time, a ringing phone would pull my dad out of bed and into the night for a customer of his business, or some disaster happening there. At the cottage, no one could get in touch with him for 4 AM emergencies. My sisters and I loved that.

The very air there is magic. As an awkward teen, I always felt like I might actually look pretty when we were there. Certainly I felt much less of a need to hide behind a made-up face, the flaws that I saw in my skin were somehow diminished while staying at the cottage. It was a place where the rules were relaxed. A. Whole. Lot. Junk food we weren't allowed to have at home was fair game at the cottage. We wandered much further afield than we were allowed to at home. No one nagged about chores, homework, or stuff that needed doing at the cottage.

The family who owned the place was a large extended clan, presided over by a matriarch who was a force of nature. The last time I saw her before she passed away, I was in my early teens, and she was 90-something. She was a hell of a lady. The muffin recipe is hers.

It was written on a scrap of paper, in Palmer Method handwriting (hers, of course) taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet where the flour, sugar, and baking spices are kept. In my mid-to-late teens, for several years running I tried to remember to copy it down so that I would have it at home, but I didn't remember until the summer that I had a blank book with me most of the time.

We were usually in Michigan for at least part of the blueberry season, but not always. And sometimes blueberries show up in the grocery store in the midst of winter, frightfully expensive and completely irresistible. So I needed to have a copy of my own, because it is my favorite way to make blueberry muffins.

That said, the recipe has two faults, as I see it. One, the muffins have never risen like I think they ought to; there are no muffin tops on the tops of these muffins, even with a decent amount of baking powder called for in the recipe. Two, the blueberries have a tendency to sink to the bottom, which kind of irritates me. I get around that these days by putting 1/2 of the blueberries in the batter, and sprinkling the remaining half over top of the filled muffin tins, which means that at least a few stay floating on the surface until they're baked.

Grandma ____'s Blueberry Muffins

Beat two eggs until foamy. Add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until the eggs are light yellow, adding 1 heaping tablespoon of softened butter. (The original calls for shortening, ick.) Add 1 cup milk, 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder and 1-1/2 cups blueberries. Fill regular sized muffin tins 2/3 full, after either greasing well or lining with paper liners. Bake at 350 F (175C) for 15-20 minutes. Makes approximately 12 muffins.

I like making them in mini-muffin tins, bite-size. That recipe makes roughly 4 dozen (give or take, YMMV) mini-muffins, and the baking time is shortened. I just keep a super-close eye on the minis, sometimes they take 10 minutes, sometimes longer.

When I made them last week, I discovered too late that I had no milk, so I used vanilla yogurt instead, and I used my Really Raw Honey because I have an aversion to granulated sugar. I ran out of my regular unbleached flour, too, so about 1-1/4 cups of the flour was whole wheat pastry flour, which I thought would work better than the bread flour, or the cake flour, that were also in my pantry. They were still very tasty. Someday, I will remember to try using baking soda or a combination of baking soda and baking powder to see if they will rise like I think they should.

Eat them with abandon, the small amount of butter in them means that they're relatively low fat. If you can pick the blues yourself as opposed to buying them in the mega-mart, so much the better. Be warned, blueberry stained fingers are part of the fun.


Anonymous said...

We're lovin the blueberries, too. The girls have eaten so many that they've got blue poop.

That was a ridiculous amount of TMI. Sorry.

Lucy Arin said...

...um. Yeah. Didn't need to know that. :-)