Feelin’ Blue

I WENT BLUEBERRY PICKING, AND YOU SHOULD TOO!

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Ok, sorry, let me try again, but with a wee bit less enthusiasm. You need to drive about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill, 10 miles past Hillsborough on the incredibly scenic old 86, where there are several pick-yer-own blueberry patches (or find a patch near you). You’ll see colorful sandwich boards announcing their presence, and your excitement will grow as you rumble down the short gravel drive. IMG_0390 IMG_0383 You’ll see hand-painted signs welcoming you, telling you to take your time and enjoy yourself, and just drop your money in the box on your way out. You can grab a bucket and saunter out to the rows and rows of blueberry bushes. Try to be clever and go as far from the parking as you can, there will surely be more blueberries on those bushes. Listen to the chatter of families who have met here for an annual outing, bringing young children whose only interest is to eat the blueberries right out of the bucket. Crouch and look up at the bushes from below, it’s easier to see the blue bundles of joy hiding under the leaves. Be careful – there are some thistles growing there amongst the blueberries (but you should look for a ripe blackberry as long as you’re there). It’ll be incredibly satisfying for you; standing alone, silent, you’ll feel profoundly relaxed, but will have a material reward at the end of the day. The little berry’s potential will run through your mind as you mentally scan your cookbooks for recipes to use up your prize.

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After an hour and a half you’ll have about 3 pounds of blueberries. Pour them into a plastic bag, drop your $6 in the box and scoot home. You immediately whip up the most promising blueberry muffin recipe, but that only uses up a cup and a half of your sack of berries. You’ll search the internet and find a blueberry sorbet recipe. Someone has left a comment about adding basil, and you think that sounds fantastic. You’ll be right. The basil gives the sorbet an ethereal, anise-y flavor that leaves people wondering.

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You’ll have almost finished the three pounds of blueberries, and swear you’ll go back next weekend for more.

Blueberry Basil Sorbet
Adapted from Gabrielle Carbone of The Bent Spoon, Princeton, NJ, via Epicurious.

The egg white here is uncooked, so feel free to leave it out if it makes you uncomfortable, or if you don’t trust (or know) the source of your eggs. The egg white gives the sorbet a nice, silky texture, and keeps it silky at most temperatures.

1/2 c water
1 c sugar
1 pinch salt
handful fresh basil (6 or 7 sprigs)
3 pints (6 c) blueberries, washed and rinsed over
juice of one lemon
1 egg white (optional)

Heat the water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and tear in the basil. Cover and let steep 1-2 hours (if it must sit more than 2 hours, put it in the fridge).

Put the blueberries, lemon juice, and half of the basil syrup in a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste, and add more of the syrup to taste. If desired, you may strain the mixture, though it has a nice hearty texture if you use it as is.

If the mixture is warm at all, chill it thoroughly. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Add the egg white in the last 5 minutes of churning, if desired.

Makes just over a quart of sorbet.

One Comment

  1. Posted July 25, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    So jealous! There aren’t very many pick-your-own berry patches here in San Diego, though come fall we will have apple picking in Julian! Gah, and $2 per pound for blueberries!


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