Last weekend we climbed a mountain. For a better-trained person that would have been a short enjoyable walk in the morning pristine air, for me it was quite an adventure.
Fulvia and Niccolò, Tommaso’s family friends, invited us to spend a weekend in their cosy house in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, near Abetone.
There’s nothing better than being cuddled in the mountains with home-made food, fresh air, long sleeps under the blankets when your have spent the last two months in a sweltering hot weather. Have I mentioned that this has been the hottest summer in more than 150 years in Italy? A weekend in the mountains sounded just perfect.
Add that August is the blueberry month in Abetone, and you can see me jump into the car, ready to leave.
Every year the authorities set a special range of time when you can walk up to the area where the blueberries grow wild and pick them: you just need to limit your harvest to 2 kilos per person per day, but if you have ever foraged a field for blueberries you know that you have to spend hours bent as an old man to fill up your basket.
Picking blueberries is a zen activity.
You are surrounded by quiet mountains, rolling fields, blueberry bushes everywhere confused among juniper and wild cardoons. You walk slowly, eyeing at the bushes, breathing in a balsamic air infused with the dry incense smell of spruce tree. All of a sudden the silence is broken by silver bells ringing in the valley: are those church bell towers or cows grazing in the fields in the distance?
When I am so focused on a manual task, my mind runs free, and I find myself listing recipes to make with blueberries, planning autumn activities, dreaming about restoring an old storehouse and turn it into my workspace. There’s something deeply rewarding in spending hours collecting blueberries: I call it blueberry crostata.
We picked up two and a half kilos of blueberries, then on Sunday we head to a local bar, where we could buy two more kilos. We came back home relaxed and happy, with almost 5 kilos of blueberries, to find out that a rainstorm had just washed down the countryside, the temperatures had dropped down significantly and it was definitely time to turn on the oven.
Rustic blueberry crostata
The dough is rustic thank to the whole-wheat flour, mixed with some whole rye flour. Instead of using a blueberry jam I scattered the crostata with fresh berries and sugar: cooking in the oven they reduced to a thick jam, which will lustfully bubble when ready.
- 200 g di raw cane sugar
- 250 g of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 300 g of whole-wheat flour
- 200 g of whole rye flour
- Zest of 1 organic lemon
- 1 pinch of salt
- 500 g of fresh blueberries
- 100 g of raw cane sugar
Rub the butter and the sugar with your fingertips just until combined and there are no large lumps of butter remaining.
Mix in the beaten eggs and then rub in the two flours, previously sifted with salt and lemon zest.
Try to work quickly so that it does not become greasy, press the dough together, wrap it in cling film and let sit in the fridge for several hours or even overnight.
When it’s time to finally bake your blueberry crostata, preheat oven to 180°C.
Remove the short pastry from the fridge, knead until softened and roll it out on a floured surface with a rolling pin in a 5 mm thick sheet.
Line a 26 cm round loose bottom baking pan with the short pastry and remove the excess dough.
Fill the crostata with blueberries and sprinkle with sugar.
Roll out the remaining dough and cut long strips to decorate the surface.
Bake the crostata for about 30 – 35 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Let it cool down for a few hours before slicing it.
* You’ll have some leftover dough, which can be turned in a smaller crostata or in a batch of nutty cookies.
The main purpose of our Apennines adventure was blueberry jam. We froze two bags of blueberries for winter smoothies and porridges, I baked a crostata – as I was dreaming about its juicy filling up there in the mountains – then the rest of our harvest became a jam: thick, pitch black jam for future cakes, breakfasts with bread and butter and sudden cravings.
- 2,5 kg of blueberries
- 750 g of sugar
- Zest and juice of 2 organic lemons
Wash blueberries under running water, drain them and put them in a large pot. Add the grated zest of two lemons and their juice.
Cook the blueberries on low heat for about 30 minutes, until they start to simmer.
Add the sugar, stir to melt it and bring the blueberries to the boil again. Let them simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes. Check the thickness of your jam: drop some jam on a frozen saucer, if it sets, it’s ready.
Pour the jam into sterilized jars and close them tight. Put the jars in a large pot and cover with water: bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove from the heat. Let the jars cool completely in the pot, then remove them from water. You can store them for several months in a dry, cool and dark place.
More recipes with blueberries
- My sister made these pancakes the next morning, adding a generous handful of blueberries into the pancake batter.
- Necci are probably the most typical sweet treat of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines: throw a handful of blueberries in your ricotta for a late summer afternoon break.
- I bet this cake would taste just as good with frozen blueberries!
- This might be my next recipe with blueberries, I am missing a good old fashioned old school cake.
- These gluten free dairy free quinoa slices by Emma of My Darling lemon time is just gorgeous.
- This salad with blueberries, apples and rucola is tempting, too.
- Last but not least, Deliciously Ella’s almond and blueberry salad, light and refreshing during summer.