Beloved blueberry, a perennial favorite, small, sweet, unique — and forever consigned to the role of American flag stripes on a patriotic sheet cake.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that: ’round these parts, the Fourth of July is high season for Vaccinium cyanococcus. The plant, indigenous to the Hudson Valley, favors acidic soil. A bilberry is a similar fruit that, when chewed, shows blue or red through and through. True blues have white or green flesh.
If you’re lucky enough to have some shrubs out back, avail yourself daily and reap the purported health benefits. Full of antioxidants, blueberries are an anti-inflammatory, touted by some to inhibit cancer growth and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps it’s for the birds — your entire crop may be if you decline to drape a net over the plants. Flocks’ frenzied attention is a great indicator that the fruit is ripe.
This year’s blueberry crop is particularly excellent, supple and sweet. I bought a flat of a dozen heaping pints from Borchert Orchards (282 Lattintown Road, Marlboro) for $22 last week.
The best way to enjoy blueberries, as any farm-fresh fruit, is to rinse, chew and swallow them. Toss them in granola or yogurt in the morning; layer them with whipped cream for a simple, light summer dessert. Freeze and add them to seltzer, lemonade or mixed drinks. They are excellent in pancakes, of course. Bake them into muffins, pies, cobblers and turnovers. They add a floral note to homemade hot sauce. Chefs feature blueberry glazes and reductions for meats. Blintzes, chilled soups, salads, stuffings — why not?
I decided to celebrate Independence Day by making my own blueberry doughnuts, inspired by a recent trip to the Doughnut Plant (379 Grand Street, NYC).
A city-dwelling friend alleges that the owner took a sabbatical in his parents’ basement to engineer a doughnut nonpareil and the glossiest of glazes. His circle of yeast dough draped in flecked blueberry glaze was my brass ring.
But I had no business working with rapid-rise yeast on a day as hot as the Fourth of July.
Dreams of feather-light blueberry doughnuts smashed, I opted for a friendlier cake-doughnut recipe, “Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Donuts” from Donuts by Elinor Klivans. I now see that Emeril has one here, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/blueberry-cake-doughnuts-recipe/index.html, which includes the all-important instruction to switch the paddle for the dough hook mid-mix. Caveat beator.
A vat of canola oil later, I fried my three-inch-wide blueberry cake doughnuts at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 60 seconds per side. They drained on paper towels for a minute before receiving a generous dusting of powdered sugar. I served them warm with the remaining glaze from my inferior yeast doughnuts as a dipping sauce. (To make blueberry glaze, cook a handful of berries in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in two tablespoons unsalted butter and a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Put two cups of powdered sugar in a large bowl and whisk in the warm blueberry mixture a tablespoon at a time until your preferred consistency is reached. Add a greater proportion of blueberry and it becomes a sauce.)
They tasted like deep-fried blueberry muffins.
I shared some doughnuts with a neighbor down the street, who rewarded me with a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I do declare it was so hot that, after drinking out in the angry sun, I got the vapors and had to retire to my familial home to take a one-hour nap on the settee.
I awoke to the sound of crackling hot oil. Apparently, oil retains its heat quite well and needs but a little flame to reinvigorate its deep-fry potential. There is a phenomenon — and I believe it happens whenever an American family inaugurates a deep fryer — described as a what-can-I-fry mania. They will fry everything. They will admonish you for not saving some doughnut batter so they can wrap it around hot dogs. Then they might just fry the hot dog au naturel. All your potatoes will become french fries; vegetables, tempura. Hide the bread crumbs, panko and flour. Chocolate, marshmallows, candy bars are not safe.
Once everything in the kitchen has been fried, you’ll find them glaring at you with Lord-of-the- Fries lust.
Leave immediately. Don’t forget your blueberry doughnuts.++