June 19, 2018 at 9:38 am #12723
My mind has been on blueberries due to the rapidly developing crop in Indiana.
I’ve been reading various recipes for canned blueberry pie filling. Almost all of them say that the blueberries should first be blanched for 1 minute in boiling water, then drained (but not given an ice bath) and set aside in a bowl before being incorporated into the pie. According to one recipe, that stops “the enzymes that cause the flavor to degrade during storage” (storage as pie filling). I am glad to know that this step is necessary. It is included in both the recipe Univ. of Georgia that Randy D. recommended, and also in the one on this site from Teaching Cotton.
I’ve been wondering about jam. I’ve not made a completely blueberry jam, but I’ve used blueberries with other berries for a mixed fruit jam. I was reading Keven West’s Saving the Season (Knopf, 2013, pp. 218-219), and he comments that the major flavor, as well as nutrients for blueberries, are in the skin. Blueberries work well in muffins, etc., he says, because “the skin does not break down with cooking.” However, when it comes to longer cooking, as for jams, he observes that “its modest flavor can cook away entirely.”
He does two things to compensate: 1) he heats the blueberries until they “sweat and burst their skins,” cools them a bit, then puts them through the coarse blade of a food mill. He suggests that this will distribute the skin equally in the final product, although he notes it is thus “not a jam but . . . a fruit butter.” 2) He also notes Harold McGee says, in On Food and Cooking, that blueberries get their flavor from a class of molecules called terpenes. West says that “terpenes are highly volatile and boil away with cooking,” which might explain why there are so few recipes for blueberry jam.
West has two fixes for that. The first is to add some gin, 4 tsp. to 2 1/2 pounds of blueberries in the recipe, “once a gel set is achieved.” Gin has terpenes, and he says that a shot of it will restore the fresh blueberry taste.
His second fix, tor those who do not want to use alcohol is to use ground coriander seeds when making the jam and to stir in a Tbs. of lime juice and the zest of the lime at the end.
When I told my husband that I need a bottle of gin, he just looked at me. He does not like the taste of alcohol and avoids it. Both of his grandmothers were officers in their local WCTU, so I think that is genetic 🙂 , although his cousins do not appear to have gotten that gene.
After reading about blueberry jam, I began to wonder about canned blueberry pie filling. Would it also benefit from gin or lime? It gets processed for 30 minutes when canned. It will also be baked again when it is used for a pie. Would gin or lime, either added to the filling before it is canned, or else added to the pie filling when it is finally baked up into a pie, give it more of the taste of fresh blueberries? Should I give up on canning blueberry pie filling and try to stash away a “pie supply” where my husband won’t grab them to use on his oatmeal?
Would a regular blueberry pie, made with fresh blueberries, that initially gets baked at a higher temperature to brown the crust, also benefit from lime or gin?
How much experimentation do I want to undertake with our forthcoming precious supply of blueberries?
I do think that I might try this pie recipe:June 19, 2018 at 1:37 pm #12726
This is all very interesting, and I need to reread it several times and try to process it all. I do not make/can blueberry pie filling nor do I make jam. I do freeze about 40 quarts of blueberries, from our ten bushes. Frozen blueberries are excellent in muffins or bread – good flavor, not mushy, and the skins are not tough. When I make blueberry pie, I must cook the frozen berries first; otherwise, the skins are tough and chewy. You have to cook them to split the skins. I do not notice any loss of flavor from cooking them at that point. But I have nothing to compare that with. I think the flavor of blueberries varies tremendously depending on the variety. One of my varieties is very sweet, but has no blueberry flavor, some are so-so, and one variety (I have 3 bushes of this one!) is sweet and has a very strong blueberry taste.
I wonder why the formerly-frozen berries in a muffin are not tough, but in a pie filling are tough? Hmmm.
Baker Aunt, I may do some experimenting, but I doubt I do as much or as precisely as you probably will. I do look forward to hearing what you discover!June 21, 2018 at 6:20 am #12743
Chocomouse–I’ve been trying to do some additional internet research on the topic. It’s hard because terpenes seem to have a role in marijuana, or at least in its commercial use–and I have to wade through those results to get to the ones on blueberries and cooking.
The New York Times published a similar recipe for Blueberry-Lime jam to what is in West’s book, but that recipe uses cinnamon not coriander. I also found this ice cream recipe at Serious Eats:
The American Chemical Society has gotten into the act as well, although I don’t have access to read the article. And then I found this article, which is more about breeding a blueberry that does not lose its flavor. I cannot follow the science, but I thought that the last part of the second paragraph of the discussion section–with its comment about the loss of flavor in strawberries, apples, and tomatoes with the creation of new varieties–connects to the difference I’m tasting in local strawberries and the big commercial ones. Here’s a link to the article:
June 21, 2018 at 7:56 am #12745
- This reply was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by BakerAunt.
Thanks, Baker Aunt! I’ve bookmarked both sites and glanced at the articles, and I’ll most definitely make that ice cream soon. The scientific article will have to wait a couple of days – the forecast is for perfect gardening weather, so I must pull weeds today.July 11, 2018 at 3:41 pm #12911
Today, my husband and I went to our local blueberry place and picked 20.25 pounds. I’m taking a break from stowing them away. Some are going into quart freezer bags (4 1/2 cups per bag), so that my husband can have them during the year for his morning oatmeal–and maybe I will also be able to use them for some baking projects. I’ll be setting some aside for a fresh blueberry pie, and blueberry hot cross buns and blueberry muffins are also in the immediate future.
We plan to pick more berries in a couple of weeks.
I have not yet resolved what I will do for canned blueberry pie filling. I bought some limes, so I may try stirring in some lime juice (in addition to, not in place of the lemon juice) and see what that does to the flavor. Of course, it will be a while before I crack open those canned pie fillings for pies–and maybe for sweet rolls. Another alternative might be to add the lime juice after opening a jar of the filling before using it in a pie. Or can the terpenes in limes endure the high heat of canning?
July 11, 2018 at 7:49 pm #12917
- This reply was modified 4 months ago by BakerAunt.
I checked my blueberries today, and found they are just starting to turn blue, so it will be a while yet. My first project (after eating a bowl full of just plain berries!) will be a blueberry cream cheese braid. It is based on KAF’s Braided Lemon Bread – with variation. I make a layer of a thickened sort of blueberry pie filling and a slightly sweetened cream cheese layer before braiding. Sometimes I use lemon curd and thickened blueberries. Baker Aunt, my husband prefers our blackberries on his Frosted Flakes 365 days a year!July 18, 2018 at 8:12 pm #12998
I tried using lime zest rather than lemon zest in a blueberry pie, and added 1 tsp. lime juice. I don’t know whether it was this particular batch of blueberries or the lime–and I am tending toward blaming the lime–but the filling was tarter than usual. I’m not sure that I will try adding lime when I am canning blueberry pie filling. (Maybe I should sneak a bottle of gin into the house?) 🙂
July 18, 2018 at 8:26 pm #13000
- This reply was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by BakerAunt.
How about rum, for mojitos? I picked blueberries today for the first time this season. Last week they were extremely tart and not very flavorful. These are much better, but they will be even sweeter next week. I have one variety, Earliblue, which is sweeter and more flavorful than my other varieties. One variety is very sweet, but has no flavor! I always pick from several bushes, so that I get a mix of varieties. You might find, Baker Aunt, that the next berries from that farm are sweeter than the ones you got this week.July 19, 2018 at 1:01 pm #13005
Thank you for the information Chocomouse. We did pick earlier this year, since we now live here. Usually we would have been picking either this week or the next.
We will have to go back and pick more!
The pie was less tart today, maybe because it had now cooled completely. (We cut into it just shy of four hours out of the oven.)
My husband planted our two blueberry bushes out front this morning. He’s put cages around them to keep the little critters out and he has spread coffee grounds around to deter the deer.
September 7, 2018 at 6:37 am #13370
- This reply was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by BakerAunt.
Speaking of blue berries and science… I just found this link – a planet made of blueberriesa planet made of blueberriesa planet made of blueberries!September 7, 2018 at 12:46 pm #13374
Aaron–thanks for such a fun article. I read it to my husband (plant physiologist), and he was laughing too. I suspect that if more discussions of the kind alluded to in the article had been available in high school, more people would have rushed to take physics. The only food example I can recall from my high school physics class was that of raisins in yeast dough that move further and further away from each other as the dough rises. It was used as a model of the expanding universe. I’m not sure, but I think that may be where my fascination with yeast breads started.
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