By student blogger Leah.
If your culinary school ever offers you a spot on their blog to be highlighted as a student blogger, take it because then you too might find yourself staying up past midnight making strange blueberry concoctions in a very timely fashion so that you can show them to the people in blogging world. These blueberry experiments were going to be conducted with or without the blog, but the blog was the impetus for doing all this stuff tonight. Maybe a little bit lame but my kitchen is full of cool blueberry stuff, so I’ll take it.
A word about my recipes: I am a fierce supporter of tough love. That means I will probably never give exact measurements or totally clear directions when telling about my own recipes because I believe that each person should participate in the cooking process and that demands critical thinking. Also, what if you were hindered by my directions and could’ve made something better? When I am cooking professionally or for someone else then I am an avid recipe follower, but when I’m alone...all bets are off. (on a side note: this drives my mom a little bit crazy. She is one of the best cooks that I know and I will be lucky if someday I can feed people at a table like her’s but I still refuse to give her exact recipes when I happen to make something that she wants to replicate. If I won’t do it for her, I’m not doing it for anybody.) Pay attention to the details of what gives food the characteristics that you like and then start trying to replicate them. Taste and feel the difference between a deep fried crouton and a baked crouton. Ask people how they prepared the food that you like, take notes, and try it out at home. Read, watch, research, and practice. Smell, taste, look, touch, feel, read, take temperatures, and listen to your heart (yeah, yeah)---cooking is interactive and it’s sensual. Engage your senses and let them do their thing so that you can eat something beautiful. If the golden color is right for you, then it’s good! If you think it should be a bit crispier, saltier, or hotter---then do that! If I am constantly instructing you, then when do you get a chance to think? So if that bothers you, I’m kind of sorry. But I think we’ll all be better cooks when we learn to trust ourselves a little bit and stop letting other people tell us what to do. I’m also a cook to my core (and not a baker), so I never measure anything anyway...
So how did I acquire these blueberries? From the side of a road in Maine while I was traveling, these little gems were looking for a good home and I hope they found one. Summertime, won’t you stay awhile?
Rick’s Blueberry Shrub
My dad first introduced me to shrubs when he ordered a few bottles several years ago that he found online from a small company. Shrubs were invented as a colonial way of preserving fruit in vinegar that was lightly sweetened and used to flavor water as a refreshing summer drink. They are currently enjoying a comeback in today’s cocktails. I like them with sparkling water over ice and maybe a little mint if you’re feelin’ fancy.
1 part fruit
1 part raw apple cider vinegar (any neutral vinegar will do)
1 part sweetener (more or less as you like---maple syrup, agave, sugar, brown sugar, honey...you get it)
Combine fruit and vinegar in anything but a metallic container, cover with cheesecloth, coffee filter, or other tight knit cover that keeps pesky fruit flies out and air flowing in. Store on the counter. Let sit for maybe a week and then taste it---you like more flavor? Let it sit. You like less flavor? Fewer days. Strain fruit out with cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Mix with sweetener, pour into air tight container and store in refrigerator.
*this product is a naturally fermenting food and does run the risk of becoming contaminated. If there is any development of brown, black, green, or other yucky looking mold, then please please PLEASE discard all of it. I promise the reward is not greater than the risk. Fermented foods that go bad can make you really sick. Please be careful! But if it looks good and smells good, and a tiny taste is sour and flavorful---you’re probably fine :)
2 parts fruit
1 part sugar
1 part water
Combine on stove top, boil until it tastes good. Strain. Refrigerate in airtight container. Pour over waffles, corn muffins with butter (mmmmmmmmm), martinis, ice cream, toast, or your fingers.
1 part fruit
1 part vodka (I like Gordon’s because I think it is smooth and it mixes well...it is also an affordable vodka. And let’s be honest---vodka is a colorless, tasteless, odorless beverage so you don’t have to get crazy over the quality for this infusion, it’s going to taste like berries or fruit anyway.)
Combine, cover, and store in fridge until infused appropriately. Taste, watch the color, and make a few drinks. Decide if you want to let it sit longer...do your thing, strain and enjoy.
I’m seeing some blueberry freezer jam and maybe even some ice cubes of pureed blueberry for mixed drinks or smoothies in my future for tomorrow. But we’ll take of that when it comes, tonight I’m going to sleep breathing in the sweet aroma of blueberries.
p.s. So where’s that post about China, eh? I was a little off in my prediction of timing so this is my first apology, please accept it and know that this is most likely the first of many mistakes. I am a lot of things including imperfect and I just ask for a little patience dear friend, can I have that? China will be here soon, promise.