: NOT Grandma’s Blueberry Grunt

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Blueberry Grunt has a funny name and a long history here in Nova Scotia.

It’s several generations old and one of the simplest desserts to make. The “grunt” in its title, is believed to come from the sound produced while the sauce bubbles and the dumplings give off an almost..um… rude noise.  They may have called it Blueberry Toot. But Blueberry Grunt it is.

When we were kids, on summer weekends we’d head to the family cottage in Blue Mountain, named for it’s blueberry fields. Here in the Annapolis Valley, we get high bush blueberries. But my favorite will always be the wild field blueberries that grew in back of our cottage.

I have very fond memories of my dad making homemade tin rakes and taking us kids out to the fields to rake the blueberries. We would come back looking like smurfs and it would take days to get the berry stain out from under our nails. We ate them by the handfuls. We ate them on cereal. We ate them with cream. And we ate them stewed with dumplings, better known as grunt.

My favorite picture from childhood is one with the whole gang of us, back from the field, with buckets and buckets of berries. I was about 8 years old and wearing a Donny and Marie Osmond hoodie (that might give away my age). My baby sister who was supposed to be saying “cheese” for the camera couldn’t stand the temptation. Just as the shutter clicked, she was caught, buried up to her elbows, with a big blue-stained-teeth grin.

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My blueberry grunt follows the traditional recipe with the exception of adding cinnamon and custard to the mix. You don’t need either, they are not a requirement. But I find the custard gives the sauce a velvety texture and helps cut a bit of the acidity in the berries. The cinnamon just adds a subtle spice flavour.

Some would rather stick to the bare-berry recipe. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. As far as simple dessert recipes go, this is my favorite.

Adding the blueberries to the water and custard mixture.

Adding the blueberries to the water and custard mixture.

Sauce is bubbling and dumplings are cooking

Sauce is bubbling and dumplings are cooking

Sauce Ingredients:

2 pints blueberries

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp custard powder

Dumpling Ingredients:

2 ½  cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp cold butter

About ½ cup milk (or enough to achieve a soft dough)

Method:

Make dough for dumplings: sift flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Slowly add milk and mix in just until a soft dough forms. Don’t over work it. Set aside.

Make sauce: In a large pot, whisk custard with water over medium heat until powder dissolves. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and berries and continue to stir frequently until it just starts to bubble. With a spoon, drop in big clumps of dough all around the pot and in the center. Turn heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes until dumplings look cooked.

Serve warm by placing a piece of dumpling on plate. Spoon on the sauce. Eat just like this or, as I would suggest, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Or, you could serve on top of a dollop of warm custard and top with ice cream (my personal favorite).

A word of caution… My dad loved to tell about the time a relative (whom I will not name) came to visit. My mom made a huge pot of blueberry grunt. My mystery relative had a few helpings before they proceeded on their long trip home. Let’s just say they had to make several stops!

I would suggest that copious amounts of berries and long road trips don’t go well together. My dad always laughed when he told that story and ended it “…and that’s why they (really) call it blueberry grunt”.

I can still hear my dad’s laugh. Good times.

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: Favorite Blueberry Lemon Bars

DSC_1008Winter has dumped a whole lot of snow on us East Coasters recently. And as beautiful as it is, it is responsible for this shack happy state of mind I am developing.

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For 3 days straight, I was stuck inside with the 3 little ones. The first day was actually fun, sleeping in, and nowhere to go. No pressing appointments. No school lunches to make. No need in deed, to get out of our pajamas!

But the next 2 days were trying, to say the least. Boredom eventually sets in and with 3 children close in age, it’s not pretty.

Although…the outside is. But it is too cold and buried to enjoy it…

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So, to thumb my nose at old man winter, I am making something sweet and reminiscent of summer. These blueberry lemon bars are a favorite in my house. Usually, I make them in late summer when wild Nova Scotia blueberries are in season. Luckily, I found a bag of frozen ones in the grocery store.

Basically, they have a short bread type crust. Very flaky and buttery.And the topping is a blueberry filled custard with a slight lemony zing. They are really nice warm out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients for blueberry filling:

2 cups of blueberries

Juice of half a lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

4 large eggs

1/4 cup cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

Ingredients for crust:

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup butter, cut in small pieces

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine butter, confectioners sugar, and flour. Cut butter into the flour and sugar with a pastry cutter until a course crumbly mixture forms. It won’t resemble dough, but it should hold together when pressed with fingers. Pour into baking dish, level it, and press down firmly with a fork. Bake just until it starts to turn a light golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix baking soda and sugar with a fork. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, cream, and lemon zest. Lastly, stir in the blueberries, mixing well. Pour this over the crust, leveling it with a spatula. * if you use frozen berries, thaw them first in a colander over some paper towel.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the blueberry topping is no longer jiggly and edges are turning brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

Serve warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

Makes about 16 squares.

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