Blueberries

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I used to think blueberries were relatively small and tasteless–that was until I moved to the Midwest. Here, the blueberries are packed with a juicy, sweet tangy punch. And there’s not one or two large berries in a container, it’s the tiny ones that are in the minority. So when I saw flyers up announcing a local ‘Bluesberry Fest’ dedicated to–yup, blueberries with a little live Jazz mixed in–at a local grocers I knew I had to drop by.

Mustard Seed Market and Cafe has two stores located in the greater Cleveland area. The stores try to provide customers with the freshest local ingredients along with a number of organic products–think Trader Joe’s meets Whole Foods with a farmer’s market thrown in. For the Bluesberry Fest each department had to offer samples of recipes using the berry.

My kids are always up for trying new-to-them recipes and with a familiar ingredient like blueberries, I figured we’d be roaming the store for hours. The first few samples were fairly expected (not that they weren’t tasty!)–spinach salad with feta, blueberries and a light vinaigrette; and a fruit salad tossed with fresh mint. Then, there was blueberry salsa. I figured the blueberries would taste out of place alongside tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, lime and jalapenos. Instead the berries offered a kick of sourness to the salsa that gave the standard pico de gallo new life. Served with blue corn tortilla chips, I could also see this salsa used as a garnish with grilled pork chops or chicken (or eaten straight, with a spoon).

There were plenty of other blueberry samples, from coleslaw to lemonade and of course, muffins, but the afternoon of tastings left me wanting to refashion recipes using blueberries either as the star or the secret ingredient. Last night Mr. Squid and I cooked up a batch of blueberry barbecue sauce. As with the salsa, the sweet and sour blueberries gave the barbecue sauce a depth of flavor that perked up our pork sandwiches. I’d love to pass along the recipe–and it’s no secret–but it was a ‘little-or-this-and-that’ kind of experiment.

Here’s what went into our sauce:

In a medium-sized sauce pan we melted two tablespoons of butter and then added a cup and a half of blueberries along with half of a yellow pepper, diced. We let that cook on medium-high heat until the sauce became nearly syrupy. Then came the doctoring: we added barbecue sauce from a bottle (maybe a cup) along with a little deli mustard, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, Tabasco, hickory spice, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt. We probably would have added a little bit of soy sauce too if we hadn’t run out earlier in the week.

The blueberry barbecue sauce brought a tangy flavor and deep purple color to our pork sandwiches (we topped them with some crumbled queso fresco cheese). I knew our sauce had to be good when my youngest daughter got up and roamed the kitchen looking for seconds (there weren’t any). While I wouldn’t top a burger with the sauce, it would make for some memorable wing sauce or topping for pork loin. Have you been experimenting with summer berries lately?

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