By Karen L. Ranz
The early morning lines for berries at local farmers markets and farm stands will be long by the time farmers have gotten themselves ready on weekends now. That’s surely not news that will surprise anyone. What I’m glad to know is that at least one vendor at the Rutland market will have strawberries through the summer, thanks to a variety that produces beyond the normal season. The other great news is that blueberries come ripe in July!
Everyone has a few favorite ways to enjoy berries: often the simpler, the better. Strawberries sliced into a bowl, left to macerate with sugar, and served over ice cream or pound cake is all the trouble they really need. Should you aim to impress, though, a Pavlova - named for the Russian Ballerina Anna Pavlova - is a meringue cake similar with a crisp exterior and soft center topped with whipped cream and berries.
There are about as many good and simple ways to eat blueberries as strawberries. Smitten Kitchen has a duet of galettes with ricotta (actually these are more like crostatas) that look luscious for a July 4th red, white and blue theme. Deb Perelman’s method trims the pastry so that five-sided stars are formed by overlapping the fillings. See: smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/07/blue-and-red-berry-ricotta-galette/.
If you’re not inclined to mix and roll out a pie crust, use what I call the “two-in-a-box” method, and buy a pie crust found in the dairy section of your supermarket. Opting for a little convenience is a whole lot better than going without, and the results are consistently good.
My own favorite way to have blueberries is in buckwheat pancakes, generously laced with fruit. They’re quick and easy enough that I’ll mix them up for myself even when I’m not feeling quite up to cooking. We’re always being reminded to include more fruit and whole grains in our diets, aren’t we? For me, blueberry buckwheat pancakes are one way that this goal becomes easier.
Blueberries freeze well, which is perfect since it’s better to use frozen berries for pancakes. In fact, if you’ll be making a large batch of pancakes, keep the berries in the freezer while you’re cooking. Otherwise, once the berries start to thaw, the pancakes will come off the griddle purple and medium rare in the middle!
Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes
1 cup buckwheat flour (available at the Rutland Area Food CoOp)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp melted butter
¾ cup frozen blueberries
The method for pancakes is the same as for muffins: Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly using a whisk, then make a well in the center. Whisk the liquid ingredients together well. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, whisking only enough to just incorporate. There will be lumps. This is okay. Otherwise, the pancakes won’t be tender.
Heat a skillet or griddle on medium high until a drop of water dances around on it, then butter lightly with a brush or spray with cooking spray. Pour the batter ½ cup at a time, dropping the frozen berries evenly across the tops.
Let these cook until bubbles rise in the center and stay open. Then flip to the other side and cook until the second side browns. Keep warm by covering with a clean dry towel until all the pancakes are done.
If you’re doubling the recipe, these can be kept warm on a platter in a 200 degree oven until all the pancakes are ready.
For the sake of convenience, Red Mill makes buckwheat pancake mix that’s easy enough to find. If you want to make pancakes a weekend ritual, adding that extra serving of fruit, Food52 has an easy method for making pancakes without a recipe. Print this, and tape it to the inside of a cabinet door: food52.com/blog/10651-how-to-make-pancakes-without-a-recipe/.
The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list for pesticide residues on commercially farmed produce includes both peaches and strawberries. Ask your local farmer whether he or she uses any chemicals in their berry growing methods. There are several online suggestions for environmentally friendly DIY produce rinse to remove residues and dirt. Most involve vinegar solutions, sometimes with baking soda or peroxide added.
To find locally grown berries, visit the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s Locally Grown Guide at www.rutlandfarmandfood.org/guide or in print at hundreds of local businesses, markets, co-ops, and community centers.
Karen L. Ranz is a former kitchen designer, project manager, grant writer, and occasional writer for Harvest Watch.