Blueberries on Nantucket
Just as passionate clammers and scallopers in Nantucket have secret spots where they find their treasures, ardent blueberry pickers have equally hush-hush locations for their favorite fruit. While knowledge of these spots is stealthily passed down only within families, I can tell you that from late July through early August, wild blueberries can be found, in general, in two particular kinds of places.
Low-bush blueberries grow on the moors, where the plants thrive on the low-acid, rather poor soil. These berries are hard to find, nestled as they are among other lowgrowing heath vegetation. High-bush blueberries, on the other hand, grow in the fecund wetlands. Search for these famous Nantucket blueberries near the Island's many ponds and around the cranberry bog.
Cherish your personal blueberry harvest and please don't rinse them until just before you're ready to use them.
Hazel Mellin's sons, one of whom owns "Airdrie," the cottage I rent every summer, remember their Nantucket summers in the late 1920s as well. There was a clear view from the house to the ocean, and the great sport was to watch the Coast Guard cutters chasing the rumrunners in the water just off Squam's shores. This ranked right up there with picking blueberries and fishing in the pond. The results of those two activities would be transformed as if by magic into delightful dinners. Dinah Mellin, the wife of Hazel's grandson John, shared some of grandma's recipes with me. This is an update of her pudding, an ideal dessert for a summer supper and an even better breakfast the next morning.
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups blueberries
1-1/2 cups raspberries
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar for the garnish
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1. Preheat an oven to 350F. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the liquid, a bit at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.
2. Generously butter a 9-1/2-by-11-inch backing dish or a gratin dish. Pour the batter over the fruit. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top.
3. Bake until the batter is set, at least 1 hour. Some of the berries will rise to the top, forming puzzlelike patterns with the batter and brown sugar. Serve cool, which brings out the flavor of the individual fruits. Place each serving on a puddle of heavy cream, and cover with a cascade of strawberries.
Recipe from: The Nantucket Table
By Susan Simon
Photographs by Tom Eckerle
ISBN: 0-81 18-1472-6, 1998, $29.95 hardcover
168 pages, illustrated with color photographs throughout
Recipes & photos reprinted by permission
The Nantucket Table
Copyright © 1998—the electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc. All rights reserved.