Well, hello there. Please, allow me to introduce myself.
I am Juanita Lagrone, mom-extraordinaire to four amazing children, Grammy to two little sweethearts, and the newest addition to the The Robesonian’s newsroom staff.
It is with great pleasure that I kick off this new monthly food column, “From My Basket.”
The column title settled into place after a recent newsroom brainstorm, during which I was inspired by our managing editor to check into the Robeson County Farmers Market’s Community Supported Agriculture program — CSA.
I will receive a half basket of locally grown produce weekly, and I will endeavor to incorporate it into this column. There might be occasions when ingredients are only purchased from area grocery stores. After a little discussion, we decided “From My Basket” still works. In such situations, the items are coming from my grocery basket.
For this month’s column, my CSA subscription didn’t start in time, so, today, I’m writing solely from the grocery basket.
Shall we begin?
Summertime brings with it so many fresh flavors, and blueberries are a favorite for many. Fresh, frozen or canned in a filling, it’s hard to go wrong with this versatile fruit.
Pick or purchase all you want, while in season. Requiring no chopping, pitting or peeling, you can use some blueberries now and freeze some for later.
Fresh or frozen
Recently, I had an opportunity to bake a cake for a co-worker who prefers blueberries over other summer flavors. I happily purchased some lovely fresh blueberries only to realize the blueberry cream cheese pound cake recipe called for frozen fruit. I was pretty certain substituting fresh for frozen would be perfectly OK, but decided to see what the experts had to say before I went any further.
According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, whether frozen or fresh, blueberries will sink in a batter that is too thin to support them, or if too much air has been whipped into the batter. To fix this, avoid over-blending when you are mixing your ingredients together. Also, tossing blueberries in corn starch or flour will help them stay suspended.
Another useful tip shared by the council’s website is to layer half of the batter, followed by half of the blueberries, followed again by the remaining half of the batter, and then blueberries. Frozen blueberries can be preferential in baking because they help prevent sinking and are less likely to burst during cook-time.
Assured that I could move forward with the fresh blueberries, I heated up the kitchen and stressed out the air conditioner, and emerged with a beautifully formed blueberry cream cheese pound cake.
It looked a little naked, though. What to do? I dressed it up in a lovely blueberry glaze, also made with fresh blueberries as a substitute for frozen.
While fresh might be best for some situations, sometimes the rewards of cooking with canned fillings can be just as sweet.
While thoughts of blueberries danced in my head, a childhood family favorite came to mind: blueberry Jello salad.
Strolling down the baking aisle, I was just certain there would be no problem finding the blackberry gelatin mix that is called for in this recipe. I stand corrected. I walked from two area locations empty-handed, but the third store was charmed. With boxes of blackberry gelatin mix in my basket, I completed my purchase and headed home to duplicate the beloved dessert.
The invested time was not wasted.
(CLICK TO ENLARGE)