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Late july-august here in Iceland has a particular charm for me, which partially makes up for the fact that it’s started getting dark again at night (i’m never really ok with that, its sad even tho it’s easier to get to sleep, but I suppose another summer with bright nights is due next year, i’ll cling to that fact like a comforting blanket)
Anyway, the hillsides and mossy areas close to where I live are awash with berries this time of year. Blueberries and another kind of small, tart black berry , I’ve no idea if it even has a name in english. In icelandic it’s called krækiber (which would be pronounced crikey-bear, i suppose, hehe)
Anyway, it’s the blueberries I’m after, with a nerdy passion. I’d always been under the assumption that there was only one kind of blueberry growing in southern Iceland, rather pale blue in color and growing very close to the ground. My mother kept talking about the blueberries growing up North where she grew up, called “aðalbláber” which translates to “the main blueberry” or as my mom was clearly implying: “the real deal”. Last year I discovered to my great delight that there are in fact TWO KINDS of these more elite blueberries to be found here in the south, along with the more common ones if you know where to look. One kind is dark blue and the other black and shiny, and they grow a bit larger than the other ones. I’m not about to disclose where I pick them though. The common paler blue ones are perfectly fine, taste pretty much the same, they’re just not as fun to pick, somehow.
So far, since mid-July, i’ve filled 4 or 5 one-liter ice-cream boxes with berries, stocking up the freezer so I’ll have enough to last me thru the winter, using them mostly instead of ice-cubes in smoothies. Blueberries are purported to be bursting with antioxidant goodness, so consuming them uncooked in this way has its obvious benefits. They’re quite sour, however, nothing like the giant blueberries found in the U.S., for instance, so it’s tempting to cook them into something sweet. I’ve used them in jam, pie (i’ve tried both blueberry pie and blueberry/apple, which is better) and muffins, and it’s all been delicious. So much more fun baking with berries you pick out in the wild than store-bought stuff.
Here’s a recipe for blueberry muffins I use, it’s from Joy of Cooking (my bible in the kitchen, hands down the most informative and inclusive cookbook I’ve ever come across) The pictures are added as extra incentive to do as I say and try them
mix together in a large bowl:
280 g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend in a smaller bowl:
250 ml milk/ buttermilk/ sourcream/ cream or a mix of any of these
130 g sugar or brown sugar
60-115 g melted butter or oil (the more fat you use, the longer they stay moist)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the dry and wet ingredients, by hand, don’t overmix. The batter is not supposed to be smooth.
180 g fresh blueberries
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking (about 12-15 minutes at 180°C).
In closing: The picture at the top of this post shows the makings of 4-berry jam that I made with my son the other day. In addition to blueberries, and the afore mentioned “krækiber”, we used red- and blackcurrants from my parents yard, equal parts of each kind. Used no recipe. 1600g berries to 1200g sugar, boiled for an hour or so, half of the mixture sieved to get out some of the seeds and skins, and then everything pureed, and poured into sterilized jars ( i just boiled them one by one for a couple minutes).