Blueberries Make for Sweet Memories
By Juliana L’Heureux
Blueberries and Franco-American family reunions are a natural combination because they blend traditions with fun.
Family reunions are enjoyable opportunities for bringing several generations of family members together for storytelling, group photographs and to trade treasured recipes. Don't forget to write your family's favorite recipes for future generations to enjoy. Also, try to include the name of the person who originated the recipe. Another nice touch is to write some fond family memories alongside each recipe, if possible.
Blueberries fit beautifully into family reunion menus, especially because they're grown locally and hold together during the cooking of "blue" recipes like pies, cobblers, muffins or crepes. Many blueberry recipes can be prepared in advance of serving at family reunions. As a general cautionary note, when prepared in advance, avoid mixing blueberries with sour cream, whipped cream or ingredients with a milk base, to minimize any problems with needing adequate refrigeration.
Indeed, summer's fresh blueberries are always delicious, served simply au natural. From a nutrition point of view, blueberries are rich in Vitamin C, a good source of natural fiber and low in calories when eaten fresh, without added sugars or fats.
In variations of the French language, the Quebec Canadians informally call blueberries "les bluets, but traditional French is "les myrtilles." This difference in etymology is likely due to the blueberry being a native plant to North America.
American Indians mixed blueberries with cooked wild meat. Colonial Franco-Americans, likely, learned how to eat blueberries from their First Nations neighbors and passed these traditions down through multiple generations.
Franco-Americans typically love eating sweet desserts, so blueberries mixed with sugar are irresistible. My mother-in-law, Memere Rose Morin L'Heureux, made a tasty fresh blueberry cobbler. Actually, I think of blueberry cobbler as a hybrid dessert. Its delicious charm lies in being something between a pie with only a top crust and a hearty pudding. Memere served her cobbler in an oven-proof dish nestled inside of a silver plated casserole server.
Blueberry muffins are good eating anytime, but fresh blueberries bolster the flavor in this classic recipe. Moreover, it's just plain hard to find anybody who doesn't like them. They're great snacks for kids or served as a main dish bread accompaniment to baked beans and ham. Many years ago, my sister-in-law, Louise Bernard L'Heureux, gave me her family's wonderful fresh blueberry muffin recipe using buttermilk and real butter in the batter.
When blueberries are in season, I make her muffin recipe to take to reunions, housewarming parties or to extend sympathy to families who experience the death of a loved one. I call them "Mrs. Bernard's Blueberry Muffins," because, I suspect, the recipe was handed down to my sister-in-law from her French Canadian mother.
My husband's favorite dessert is blueberry crepes. Of course, the secret to this recipe is creating a thin consistency to the crepes, rather than the blueberries used for filling them. I don't think there's such a thing as a "too-thin" crepe. Quality crepes rely on cooking up a very thin batter, whereby the dough is easily folded to envelope the blueberries, without tearing apart in the process. In other words, there's a special and rather loving technique to successfully making thin crepes. Even if they don't turn out perfect, blueberry crepes are still delicious when served warm with maple syrup.
Our family's favorite blueberry recipes are online at www.mainewriter.com/recipes/ Have fun at your next family reunion and bon apptit.
Published in the July 26, 2007, Portland Press Herald, Neighbors Edition
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Copyright © 2007, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux