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.
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.
Sauce is bubbling and dumplings are cooking
2 pints blueberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp custard powder
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)
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.