Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sorbet: A Summertime Blueberry Treat

For the past few weeks I just simply have not been in the mood for cooking. It has been hot and sunny, and sitting in the kitchen and standing over a stove – much less turning on the oven –  holds about zero appeal. A lot of salads have been hitting the table, as we’ve had a bumper crop of lettuce this year. Herbs have also been plentiful, which makes for fun experimentation with different types of dressings.

Mostly I have been spending a lot of time outdoors with friends and family, bringing along a variety of Oscar’s ready-made salads, smoked meats and cheeses for picnicking. Ready-made has held a lot more appeal than actually whipping up my own potato salad or  barbeque after a long hard day of relaxing.

This past weekend, though, I decided it was time to get with the program. So I got myself up nice and early this past Sunday morning, blew off my initial plans to head to Saratoga for a day at the track, and set myself to the business of gathering to begin replenishing my rapidly dwindling supply of canned fruits.I decided my destination would be Ticonderoga, where we have been time on Lake George  this summer. A “U-Pick Blueberries”  at the traffic rotary in town has been toying with my imagination for the past few weeks-every time I passed I got a little nervous that I would lose my window of opportunity to get some nice fresh blueberries.

Down on Route 9N, about 4 miles from the center of Ti, headed toward Hague, is Valley View Farm. I pulled up and asked the woman at the check-in stand for 6 quart baskets. I figured I would make quick business of this berry picking thing with this super-duper contraption my brother-in-law had given me for my birthday, a special-made blueberry picker he had ordered from a metal smith in Maine. It kind of looks like a really big dustpan with an inverted handle. Instead of a solid pan, there is a big comb that grabs the berries right off the bush. The thing works perfectly- sweeps all the berries off a given branch in one fell swoop. There is just one little problem. The clusters of blueberries on a branch are in varying states of ripeness- some perfectly dark blue, some light purple, and some still hard and green.

Since I wasn’t really interested in paying for a bunch of berries I was going to have to throw out, my fancy blueberry picker had to go back in the car and I was stuck picking 6 quarts of blueberries by hand. And, can I tell you, it was really hot out. But I persevered, and about 2 hours later I walked out of there, dripping with sweat, 6 quarts of sweet and perfectly ripened blueberries in hand.

I drove home, happy as a clam to have such a great bounty of berries. However, as 6 quarts of blueberries sat there on the counter staring at me, I suddenly realized- that is A LOT of blueberries. The “what in the heck am I going to do with all this fruit” panic set in. I really couldn’t see myself using to 30 or so pints of blueberry jam that that many berries would yield. I thought it over, and decided I would use most of them to make a blueberry barbeque sauce, but in meantime, I’d whip up a batch of blueberry sorbet for a little treat.

Blueberry sorbet is incredibly easy to make, really delicious, and you can just feel the massive injection of antioxidants coursing through your veins after eating it. One note: I do happen to have an ice cream maker (I have the attachment that goes on my Kitchen Aide) but if you don’t have one yourself, churning the sorbet is not absolutely necessary. Just put the mixture straight into the freezer. For best results, stir it every half hour or so for the first couple hours.

Blueberry Sorbet

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold water

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed, rinsed & patted dry

1/4 cup freshly lemon juice

1 large egg white (optional- this is added to emulsify the mixture)

Make a simple syrup by placing the sugar, water, and salt in a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the syrup by stirring or whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

In a blender, puree the blueberries. I did this in two batches to ensure the berries would be evenly pureed. Once pureed, add entire mash back into the blender with the syrup and lemon juice and mix until very smooth At this point, you can strain this mixture through a fine-mesh sieve for a smoother texture. I skipped this step- the blueberry skin did not really seem to be affecting the texture that much, and it didn’t seem worth the mess or effort. When you are done pureeing, cover the mixture and refrigerate until chilled.

Once chilled, place the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, place mixture into the freezer and freeze. If you do have an ice cream maker,and wish to add egg white, do that during the last 2 or 3 minutes of churning. When churning is complete, put sorbet into an airtight container and put it in the freezer for a few hours, until solidified.

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Shannon Houlihan is a Public Health Nurse in Warren County who spends her free time obsessing about food.

After many years of home cooking and baking, she has determined to master the arts of food preservation including canning, fermenting, charcuterie, and cheese making.

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