Friday, June 7, 2013

My First Authentic Canadian Food Experience: Wild Nova Scotia Blueberries

This post is part of the Canadian Food Experience project proposed by my friend Valerie Lugonja, who is a board member of Slow Food Edmonton. The project began June 7th, 2013, and has a Facebook page. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. 

I grew up in Nova Scotia. My family were there for generations, going back to the early 1600s. My mother's side is a mix of Dutch-German "foreign Protestants" and English-by-way-of-Connecticut Planters who settled in the South Shore and the fertile Annapolis Valley. My father's people were English-by-way-of-Massachusetts Planters Loyalists (one was tried for recruiting for the British Army during the Revolution!) who forsake the land to become sea captains based on the Parrsboro shore and brought home their brides from England.

One of my earliest food memories is picking wild blueberries with my parents. Each tiny wild blueberry is an explosion of flavour, unlike the larger high-bush blueberries. We kids would just use our fingers to pick, and inevitably eat more than went into our buckets, while my mom supervised us and kept us entertained with stories of watching her colour-blind father pick whole buckets of green berries when she was a child. Dad did the bulk of the picking using an antique blueberry rake made of wood and tin shaped like this one:

blueberry rake, photo via

When we got home, fingertips stained purple, we'd clean the berries in a sink full of water (the leaves and twigs float to the top and can be skimmed off). Part of the bounty was bagged and frozen for later use in muffins, pancakes, and pies, and usually we'd eat some fresh and cook some on the stove for Blueberry Grunt right away. (Blueberry Grunt is a sweet dumpling batter cooked in boiled blueberries. It's delicious with a little freshly whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream. The canonical recipe is in Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens, a copy of which is in every kitchen and every gift shop in Nova Scotia.)

Lucky for me, I recently found that wild Nova Scotia blueberries from Oxford, Cumberland County are sold in the freezer section of my neighborhood Sobey's (a grocery chain based in Stellarton, NS who have expanded across Canada in the past decade). I used them last weekend to make these muffins that were enjoyed by Good Hundred Experiment attendees:

The recipe on the card was adapted slightly for the muffins in the photo: a glug of maple syrup (maple syrup makes everything better!), light brown sugar, rolled oats from Alberta grower Gold Forest Grains, and whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose gave a dense, moist texture that made a satisfying breakfast. Everything used was certified organic, except the blueberries, for which I haven't been able to find information about pesticide use. Maybe a reader living in Nova Scotia will be able to fill me in? The name on the card is my Mom's friend who gave her the recipe.

Nova Scotia Wild Blueberry Oat Muffins

Wet ingredients:
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
(optional: 2 tbsp. maple syrup)
1 cup rolled oats
... Combine and let stand.

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose (or whole wheat) flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients well, then add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix until batter is smooth. Do not over-mix.

Fold in 1 cup blueberries.

Fill cupcake papers (in greased muffin tin) 2/3 full. (I use an ice cream scoop.)

Bake at 400 F for 15-22 minutes.

Makes 1 dozen. Can be doubled.

No comments:

Post a Comment