Tastes of Blue

A blueberry festival contest winner shares two blue ribbon recipes

By Hope Cusick

This year the 14th annual North Carolina Blueberry Festival celebrates Southern hospitality, local pride and the importance of blueberries in the southeast part of our state. Pender County is the second largest grower of blueberries in the state due to the salt and pepper land the berries love, and the work of some ambitious growers dating back to the 1920s.

The festival is expected to draw nearly 30,000 visitors to the tiny town square of Burgaw. There will be a recipe contest, barbecue cook-off, queen and princesses, concerts, a 5K run, street fair, food and craft booths, and a car show. There will be fresh blueberries for sale, along with blueberry ice cream, and other blueberry goodies.

Grab the largest bucket you can. Blueberries are known for their antioxidant and anticancer properties. Here are two of my blue ribbon recipes from past N.C. Blueberry Festivals, a flavorful summer salsa that you can whip up in an instant and a French-inspired blueberry and peach clafoutis that will leave your dinner guests satisfied. Is there anything better than fresh blueberries?

Blueberry and Peach Clafoutis

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

grated zest of one lemon, about 2-teaspoons

1 1/2 pounds local peaches, cut into 1/2 inch wedges

2 cups fresh, local blueberries

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

Confectioner’ sugar for garnish

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish with butter and lightly dust with granulated sugar.

In a bowl, add lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add the peach wedges, blueberries and 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Toss to combine.

In a blender, combine eggs, almond milk, almond and vanilla extracts, flour, salt, heavy cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Blend on high until mixture becomes frothy, about 1 minute.

Pour the fruit into the prepared pan along with any juices and pour the batter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees until set, about 45–50 minutes. Let cool.

When ready to serve, dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Blueberry Summer Salsa (Serves 8)

4 cups large fresh, local blueberries

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh, local strawberries

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/4 cup Vidalia or sweet onion, chopped

1 medium jalapeño pepper, diced

1 medium poblano pepper, diced

1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 large orange bell pepper, diced

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons orange juice

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)

In a clear glass serving bowl mix together blueberries, strawberries, red onion, sweet onion, jalapeño and other peppers, and cilantro. In another bowl whisk together citrus juices, olive oil and Grand Marnier (optional) until well blended. Pour over fruit mixture and toss to combine. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

TIP: Get your blueberries early because they do sell out quickly. You can freeze the berries for future use: Do not rinse the blueberries, spread the berries out on flat pans, removing any leaves or debris, then place in the freezer and freeze until frozen, then pour into sealable containers usually holding one or two cups of blueberries for ready use in a recipe.

Info: NC Blueberry Festival, Saturday, June 16–17, all day. Free. Historic Downtown Burgaw. www.ncblueberryfestival.com

Hope Cusick is a prize-winning cook, a poet, and a Pender County columnist. Her confections take home prizes at the Blueberry, Strawberry, and Rice festivals, as well as the county fair.

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