July 23, 2011

Summer's Bounty, Part 1

Those of you who are not New Jersey natives may be unaware that New Jersey, specifically Hammonton, is the official Blueberry Capital of the World.  The World!  The blueberry crop is in full swing at our farmer's markets so that's what we focused on this month, in addition to a couple of refreshing mint recipes for those who have a lot of that handy. 

Just to give a heads up, next month in Part 2 we will feature a bounty of in season New Jersey fruits, as well as some sangria recipes pairing said fruits with local New Jersey wines.  We will also get a jump on two months of Jersey Tomato recipes and hopefully also feature a seafood dish. 

Now on to the good stuff... blueberries!  Ah....blueberries.  I've become quite familiar with them over the years as my son, age 5, is nicknamed "the Blueberry Boy"....ironically, he will not eat them in their natural state, but he loves just about any blueberry dessert known to man, as well as their addition in muffins, pancakes, breads, bagels, cream cheese...you get the idea. 

By the way, I am really beginning to love this whole "food photography" thing.  So much more fun than taking pictures of actual people.  Hopefully I've been doing an okay job.  I've been trying out the approach that if the food is reaching out and seducing me from the page, then I know I've taken a good picture.  So far, so good!

There is no shortage of pick-your-own blueberry farms in New Jersey, but this month I wanted to feature Fred + III  located in Pemberton, NJ.  They have a big variety of roadside pick-your-own, and the website has lots of fun blueberry facts.

The first recipe we tackled was the Big Blueberry Muffins recipe.  These were quick and easy to make with children "helping out" ;)...



We served these at Sunday brunch and they disappeared fast.  The sugar sprinkles we added on top were essential, plus they just made everything look prettier. 

Since blueberries are such a star of the Garden State, I wanted to share a few more suggestions...

1) We've been drinking this Blueberry Cobbler coffee every summer for quite a few years.  Don't be turned off if you are not a huge blueberry fan, as the taste is not in-your-face blueberry.  It's more like a light, sweet (but not too sweet) breakfast coffee that is perfect for a summer brunch. 

2) Here is a Blueberry Smoothie recipe from our local farm:

Brain Boosting Blueberry Smoothie1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tbs honey
1 cup fat-free milk
2 cups crushed ice.

In a blender, add blueberries, honey and milk.  Blend on medium speed until smooth.  Add crushed ice and continue to blend until smooth...garnish w/a few whole blueberries and ENJOY...

3) A great Blueberry Jam recipe from the same farm.  You can use this jam for our next blueberry recipe further down the page, if you prefer not to use store-bought. 

Blueberry JamYields 6-8 oz jars

4 cups crushed blueberries (about 2 ½ lbs.)
2 tb sp. lemon juice
4 cups sugar
One package fruit pectin
Prepare jam jars according to package directions. Combine the crushed blueberries with lemon juice in a large pot. Gradually stir in fruit pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add all of the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return to a rolling boil. Boil for one 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and ladle hot jam into hot jars carefully, leaving ¼ inch head space. Place hot lids on jars and tighten rims on. Place filled jars into a large pot of water so that 1" - 2" of water covers lids. Bring water to a gentle steady boil. Place a lid on pot and boil gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove lid from pot. Let stand for 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars and place on a towel. Allow to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours. After cooling, test seals by pressing the center of each lid, if a lid does not flex up and down, it is sealed! You can store jars for up to a year in a cool, dry, dark place. Enjoy!!

Next up, refreshing Mojitos, once again courtesy of the Beekman Boys.

Our main dish was Spicy Blueberry Pork Tenderloin.  Wow, was this good.  We are both fans of spicy food so it was hard for us to guage whether this would appeal to everyone as a standard family dinner.  But it smelled great, looked impressive, was deceptively easy...we loved it, the men loved it.  That's a winner in my book. Oh, upon review the "in progress" photos were not terribly appetizing, but here is one of the finished dish:

The recipe doesn't call for mint but it made a pretty garnish so we just went with it.

Last but not least, we were super adventurous this month and decided to make our own ice cream.  From scratch.  With no ice cream maker.  Well, technically I was the "ice cream maker"... I found this idea here for Homemade Mint Ice Cream.  This was fantastic if you have a little bit of time, and was actually less involved than the directions make it sound.  Well okay, we cheated a little bit by not checking it too frequently once we stuck it in the freezer.  But even so, it turned out great. 

If you don't grow your own mint but are looking to buy locally, try Terhune Orchards in Princeton, Mercer County, which offers a large variety of herbs.

 We only had half the amount of mint on hand than what the recipe called for and even so it turned out very minty.  The general process was to mix all ingredients and heat in a saucepan on medium until the consistency changes to a custard.  You have to stir constantly.   Even without a thermometer it was pretty easy to tell when it was ready to go. 

The next step was to strain out the solids and pour the rest into a Ziploc bag.  Fill another bag with the ice and salt, and place the custard filled bag inside the ice-filled bag.  Then gently toss and shake for a good while, as shown :)

It really wasn't as involved as we were expecting, but you do want to make sure you won't have any unexpected interruptions. By my calculations it came out to about a little over a pint of ice cream. I am pretty sure you can double the recipe and it would still fit in the bags and could be made in one batch. 

Well, this is one recipe we'll be doing again with other flavors so I'll let you know. That said, it was very rich so I couldn't see dishing out more than one scoop per person anyway.  Below is the finished product.  Please excuse the paper bowls, as this picture was taken at my home where we are still in the process of kitchen renovations and have no real dishes. 


In addition to new Farmer's Market listings and Calendar events, here's what to expect for our next few posts:
--A tutorial on canning for those brave enough to try it out
--A trip to the South Jersey Food and Wine Festival
--Possible seafood festival, if time and money allow

You already know our philosophy that no food blog is really complete without a "cocktail of the month" recipe.  Well, we've recently decided to introduce something else dear to our hearts....muffins!  We will now be featuring a Muffin of the Month made with local peak-season ingredients.  This month was blueberry (obviously).  Next month we're doing Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Muffins which are one of my favorites.