This post was created with the support of BC Blueberries (the title was too long to add Blog Flog!) – I’m a huge fan of blueberries from our next-door neighbours and as always, any words, thoughts and photos are my own.
I’m almost overwhelmed by the possibilities once BC blueberries arrive and make their way to my kitchen. They were a few weeks late this season, and I found myself missing them – the big, plump, juicy highbush berries we always have a bowlful on the counter to nibble from at this time of year. I toss them in batters and on waffles, make cobblers and crisps, tarts and grunkles, pile them on a bowl of plain yogurt and granola, muddle them in drinks (try a small handful in a mojito) and simmer them into jam. BC is the biggest highbush blueberry region in the world, and they’re Canada’s biggest fruit export.
I always buy more than I need, squirreling some away in the freezer for later in the year. If you, like me, are stocking up on BC blueberries while they’re here, they’re easy to freeze – just dump them loose and dry into freezer containers or ziplock storage bags and toss them into the freezer. If you’re using them in batters, pies and such, add them straight from the freezer – don’t thaw them first, or they’ll release all their juices and turn your batter purple. (Not that there’s really anything wrong with that.)
This time, as we’re in the middle of a heat wave and I can’t bring myself to turn the oven on, I turned a pint into ice cream. Ice cream is hands-down one of my favourite things in the world, my dessert island food, something I could eat bowls of every day. I rarely buy it because of this, and when I do I always seek out the good stuff. Although I’m not a huge fan of small appliances (we have limited real estate in our kitchen, and basement storage overflow), I’ve been working our ice cream machine hard for over ten years. Making your own is simpler than you might think – and totally worth it, especially when berries and other summer fruits are in season. When it comes to fruity ice creams, I’m not sure why strawberries get all the attention – blueberries are perfect candidates, producing a deliciously sweet-tart and brilliant purple hue to just about any ice cream base.
Fresh or frozen, it takes a few minutes to cook them down with a little sugar, softening the berries enough that they release their juices and turn all sticky and jammy, ready to scrape into a soft vanilla or sour cream ice cream base. You can blend them in completely, making your ice cream purple, or swirl them in for a dramatic (and totally Instagrammable) effect.
I decided to add them to brown sugar ice cream (maple would have been splendid, too), spiked with a splash of bourbon (totally optional, you can leave it out). I had a few egg yolks leftover from an emergency batch of rhubarb Eton mess (yes, I made a batch of meringues because I wanted some that badly) and so simmered a quick custard. Most of the time I whisk together a superfast combination of cream, sugar and vanilla and go with that, but a few egg yolks add a super smooth mouthfeel and is totally worth the extra effort and chill time.
The custard freezes quickly, and would be delicious simply topped with the blueberry sauce, but instead I scraped the whole thing in – measurements don’t need to be precise here – wanting to turn the whole batch a deep purple, with whole but softened berries studded throughout. I mean, look at this ice cream! No filter required. It was a huge hit, and I already have another batch of custard chilling for round two, this time with a drizzle of maple syrup and no bourbon. I love having a stash of something delicious and homemade ready in the freezer when friends come by and I don’t want to rummage around the cupboards to scrounge up a snack, or when there’s a bunch of kids playing out front. (I keep waffle cones on hand instead of popsicles and freezies – you should see the reaction to a scoop of purple ice cream in a waffle cone.) Grown-ups are equally thrilled. I have plans, as soon as it cools down enough to justify turning on the oven, to make a big, juicy berry cobbler or crisp, and top a warm bowlful with a scoop of this creamy purple deliciousness. It’s what summer is all about.