Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Blueberry Solstice

Happy Solstice! Woke up early to pristine blue skies and a cool morning freshness—a perfect morning for blueberry pancakes and coffee out on the fire escape. I love blueberries in anything—muffins, pancakes, on top of a bowl of Grape-Nuts. We’re not really getting the local South Jersey ones in yet, but still. Today’s a blueberry day.

Easy Morning Pancakes

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup whole-wheat or white flour
1 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
1 TB sugar, honey or maple syrup
1 egg
3/4 cup milk, or more, depending on how thick you like your pancakes
1 TB (or more--more is better) melted butter
blueberries, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel (not that I actually bother with the drying part)

Mix up dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In another small bowl, beat egg, milk, and butter together. Dump wet into dry and stir until JUST mixed—don’t beat. Throw in berries and cook on a lightly greased griddle or frying pan. Makes enough for two.

I was down at Lillie’s in Red Hook (46 Beard St, a very cool bar with an excellent outdoor garden, well worth the trip down to the tip of the Hook on the B61 bus) and happened to be browsing through one of the freebie papers scattered around. And there was a front page full of good news—it seems the South Brooklyn Local Development Agency is putting in a new community garden at Smith and 3rd Sts. Yay! It probably won’t be finished and ready for planting til July sometime, but I am overjoyed at the prospect of getting some dirt of my own, and possibly giving my tomato plant what it really wants, which is to get its feet into the ground and its leaves into full-time sunshine.

More strawberries coming from the CSA today (along with the requisite Unfamiliar Ugly Knobby Root Thing—this time, it’s burdock. Sigh. It can join the Jerusalem artichokes and salsify, still in my fridge from the past two weeks). The strawbs aren’t really that great so far; they haven’t hit that real red-to-the-core sweetness and perfume yet. But when they do, make jam! All you jam virgins out there, take heart. Making jam is like making pie crust—not a big deal, yet people are terrified and amazed when you can do it.

I inherited my jam fearlessness from my mom, an ace strawberry-jam maker, but I learned technique from Helen Witty’s excellent tomes Good Stuff and Fancy Pantry. The trick is to macerate the fruit with the sugar beforehand. Sugar is hydroscopic, which means it will pull the moisture out of whatever it touches. Instead of having to boil the fruit endlessly trying to get out the excess water, you mix the fruit and sugar together first and let the sugar do the work. In just a few hours, you’ll have a big bowl of syrup and some very deflated berries. Boil down the syrup, then add the berries at the last minute, cooking them just until they look translucent and begin to break down. This way, you keep that fresh-berry taste. For particulars, go here.

OK, off to buy some potting soil so I can finally get the tri-basil (lime, thai and Italian) and nasturtium pot going.

Music for Pancakes and Planting

1. Donovan, “Sunshine Superman”
2. Michael Jackson, “Got to Be Starting Something”
3. Spoon, “Stay Don’t Go”

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