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SAVOR THE SEASON: Bush to table family recipes

Berries define the sweetness of summer in the Adirondacks

June 22, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

Many people have summer berry stories, and others have black bear stories. I apparently have a bear-berry story from when I was growing up in Tupper Lake.

My mother recently reminded me of a berry-picking incident that I had tucked away in the farthest reaches of my brain and forgotten. She and her best friend brought me, my brother and her best friend's three boys raspberry picking on the dirt road near the Tupper Lake dump. We were all busy and didn't notice the black bear across the road picking its own berries. My mom and her best friend, after noticing the bear - too close for their comfort - quickly rounded up the kids, and we escaped to our vehicles unharmed.

That's the kind of summer memory we make as families in our neck of the Adirondack woods. Other memories are made around the kitchen table, picnic table or campfire. Food is our common bond.

Article Photos

Fresh raspberries and Greek yogurt make a healthy dessert.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

When looking for family recipes for our "Savor the Season" summer edition, I decided to talk about berries. As summer rolls along, one berry after another comes into season. I enjoy eating strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries in their natural form. Yet I'm also a sucker for pie, jam and preserves. They all taste great that way.

The best-tasting berries are those you pick fresh off the bush, either in your own yard, your favorite backcountry spot or at a pick-your-own farm. If you can't get those, buying berries at farmers markets - picked fresh that morning - are the next best thing.

There's only one problem with sharing my family berry recipes. I don't have any. My mom wasn't a big fan of cooking or baking, although when she did, I enjoyed it.

When I was young, my brother and I began cooking out of necessity. As latch-key kids, we had to make sure dinner was cooked before our parents came home. Even though it was a chore, we enjoyed the creativity of cooking, and we were good at it, so we kept it up. We've both cooked professionally at different periods in our lives. My brother is a wine maker now in Colorado, and he creates food recipes for his winery. I love cooking at home for my wife, and some of my best family memories are the ones made cooking a special holiday or birthday dinner for my mom.

But there are still no family berry recipes, so I have to come up with my own or try recipes from other people. As always, I like tweaking recipes to fit my own whims.

The first recipe isn't really a recipe at all. As a healthy alternative to a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, I enjoy eating fresh raspberries on top of plain yogurt. When I want a decadent healthy dessert, I put frozen raspberries on top of yogurt that has as much fat in it as possible -?local yogurt from North Country Creamery in Keeseville or Green Mountain Creamery.

As for strawberries, I use them in a variety of ways, mostly plain or on top of cereal. I also love strawberry preserves on toast or buttermilk biscuits. I tried to make strawberry-rhubarb pie last week, but it didn't turn out very well. It was all soupy at the bottom of the dish. Experienced strawberry-rhubarb pie makers could probably tell me exactly what I did wrong and how I can fix the problem, but I don't think strawberry-rhubarb pie is important enough in my life to try it again.

Blueberries, however, are a different story. I have two blueberry bushes in my yard, and one of the highlights of my summer is harvesting those blueberries in late July and early August. The tartness brightens my day for weeks. I like them in pancakes.

Yet there's always a struggle at harvest time. When I hear blue jays outside my kitchen window, I grab a bowl and head outside as quickly as possible. If I don't pick those blueberries, they will be lost to the blue jays and gray squirrels. By the time the blueberries are almost gone in mid-August, I just let nature take its course and give my "angel's share" to the animals.

Below is a recipe for Blueberry Pie Bars I found on the Food Network website from country music star Trisha Yearwood, who hosts the show "Trisha's Southern Kitchen." I tweaked it a little, but for the most part it remains intact. Unlike the strawberry-rhubarb pie, I had great success with this recipe and look forward to substituting blueberries with other fruit in the future.

One thing I changed was to add streusel to the top. It adds a richer and sturdier topping. I also substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream.

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Blueberry Pie Bars

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Total: 2 hours

Active: 30 minutes

Yield: 9 bars

Ingredients

Crust:

Nonstick cooking spray, for pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch salt

Filling:

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups blueberries

Topping:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over on two sides. Spray the parchment. (Or coat pan with butter/flour.)

For the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Process until the mixture starts to come together and clump, 1 minute. Remove 3/4 cup and reserve; press the remaining crust mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Then set it aside.

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, sugar, lemon juice, flour, cornstarch, vanilla extract and cinnamon until smooth. Mix in 1 cup of the blueberries. Pour the filling mixture over the crust, shaking the pan gently to settle the custard and berries. Pour the remaining 1 cup blueberries over the top, spreading them evenly.

For the topping: Mix ingredients together with your hands until butter is fully incorporated, then add the 3/4 cup reserved crust to it and sprinkle over the top of the blueberries, squeezing the mixture in your hands to encourage large lumps.

Bake for 1 hour. Let cool. Remove the bars from the pan and cut into 9 pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 
 

 

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