Why light a field of blueberry bushes on fire?
What I was told, growing up, is that burning the blueberry bushes after they’ve given up their crop at the end of the season makes them healthier and set for new growth in the spring.
Eating blueberries is one of my memories from lazy summers in Machais, Maine. The Machias I know conjures images of swimming in the lake, slamming porch doors, washing and polishing cars by hand, pie eating, walking barefoot, reading on the glider, doing puzzles.
I had no idea it (or rather, its port) was the setting for the first naval battle in the Revolutionary War (if Wikipedia is to be believed!), during which the American patriots, inspired by what had just happened in Lexington and Concord, captured their first British ship.
Cooking with blueberries is appropriate for this time of year, don’t you think?
Driving around the Machias area, you see fields of blueberry bushes – the low “wild” kind, with the small berry that is so hard to find in the grocery store. Which is too bad, because I always thought they had more flavor than the bigger berries from the high bushes. But maybe part of that is nostalgia.
Anyways, when I came across this recipe that combines sweet blueberries with tart buttermilk – and doesn’t require much time in the oven to boot – I knew I had to try it. Contrasting with smooth, creamy buttermilk filling and fresh, pop-in-your-mouth blueberries is a crisp cookie-like crust, studded with bits of almonds.
There are a few steps to it, but most of the time required to make this tart is spent waiting – for the crust to cook, things to cool, and the filling to set in the refrigerator.
Blueberry Buttermilk Tart
- serves 8 -
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
¼ c plus 1/3 c sugar
1 cup flour
¼ t salt
1/3 c whole almonds
1 t unflavored gelatin
1 T cold water
½ c heavy cream
3 T sugar
1/8 t salt
1 c low-fat buttermilk
1 T fresh lemon juice
3+ c fresh blueberries
To make the crust: In a mixer, beat butter with ¼ c sugar until just combined. Add flour and salt, mix on low speed. Martha’s recipe says the dough should come together in a ball, but mine was more like course dough – like a pie crust before the water is added, but a little moister (if you can mush it together with your hand and form it into a ball, then you’ll be fine).
In a food processor, grind together the almonds and the 1/3 c sugar until finely ground. You can probably toast the almonds first and then cool them – a step I neglected this time around.
Lightly oil/butter your 9” pie plate/tart pan.
Spread half of the almond/sugar mixture onto a clean countertop. Dump your ball of dough on top and flatten the dough with your hands and a rolling pin to roll out the crust to fit a 9” pie plate or tart pan. As you flatten and roll, sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar/almond mixture. (I was not able to lift this crust as a whole piece into the pie plate. I’m wondering if it’s because my butter was not cold enough. Anyways, if this happens to you, just pick up pieces and press it into the pie plate or tart pan.)
Refrigerate crust until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake pie crust until golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, check it to see if you need to flatten/press the pie crust up the sides of the pie plate with the bottom of a glass (the crust gets a little puffy, so tamp it down). Remove from oven and let cool.
To make the filling: Sprinkle gelatin over 1T cold water in a small bowl and let stand until softened – a few minutes. In a sauce pan, heat the cream, sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Add gelatin mixture and whisk it in so you’re sure it has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in buttermilk and lemon juice.
To assemble: Spread cooled filling into cooled crust. Put in refrigerator until filling is somewhat set, about 20-25 minutes (longer if your crust/filling isn’t totally cooled off). Top with blueberries and put back into the fridge until the filling is firm, about 2 hours. Cut and serve! (Note: the crust is cookie-like and very crisp so you may have some trouble getting it out of the pie plate; hopefully the butter/oil makes it easier.)