One of the first things I did when we returned from our travels a couple of weeks ago was to look around for blueberry farms that would allow us to come and pick our own. We’ve been blueberry picking every summer for almost two decades! There were several that popped up, but most of them did not seem appealing for one reason or another except for one that happened to be rather close to our house. Well, close meaning it was a 25 minute drive, which is how far we are from just about everything. Anyway, we jumped into the car and drove over there and the whole time I was thinking that if it was a bust, at least it wasn’t that far away. Happily, it was a fantastic little farm and we were there on the opening day of blueberry picking, so the blueberries were very plentiful.
We were there for less than an hour and picked all this, including the raspberries.
I can”t tell you what a relief and joy it was that we were able to find this farm. After a long first year here with countless moments of homesickness, this was a couple of hours when we all felt actually really happy and glad to be here. Don’t get me wrong, none of us regret moving (well, maybe a little), but living in a place where everything is new and nothing is familiar just wears on a person.
It was nice to enjoy a familiar activity. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next week and did it again. And I am hoping they will still be open for another week so we can get some more because, unbelievably, we have gone through 12 quarts of blueberries in two weeks. There were a couple of tarts and batches of jam. Three or four of those quarts went into the freezer for the long winter. And, of course, there were pies and breads and smoothies. And recently, with the last quart of berries facing me, I also made a lovely loaf cake dotted with blueberries, flavored with zingy lemon, and enhanced by the subtle crunch of cornmeal.
Best of all, the cake is super easy to mix together. The hardest task is zesting the lemons. Everything else can be done with a whisk. These are my favorite kinds of recipes. Simple. Tasty. Unfussy.
When the loaf comes out of the oven, it gets a sugar and lemon juice glaze.
Then, once it has cooled, it gets a drizzle of icing. You may be tempted to skip the icing and it would be ok without it. However, the cake itself has less sugar than most, so the icing really enhances the cake instead of just adding to the sweetness. Plus, it makes it really pretty.
Lemon Blueberry Cornmeal Quick Bread
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf (I used a 11.5 by 3.5 inch pan that I got from Ikea, but the 9 by 5 is about the same volume. If you don’t have that, an 8 by 8 pan would work, but it would be shorter and probably need to bake for a shorter period of time.)
1 1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) fine cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of one lemon
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 Tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup (3 ounces) powdered sugar
zest of half a lemon
1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until mixed.
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and lemon zest together. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until almost fully mixed. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in 1 cup of blueberries. Scrape the batter into your loaf pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of blueberries on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely golden on top and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and sugar for the glaze. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven brush the glaze over the top of the cake while it is still in the pan. After 15 minutes, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Mix together the ingredients for the icing. Begin with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Whisk the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and juice together in a bowl, adding additional juice until the icing drops smoothly from a spoon or whisk. Drizzle the icing decoratively over the top of the cake. Transfer to a serving plate and serve at room temperature. The cake will keep well, covered for a day or two.
I don’t know if you have heard this, but I learned last year that consuming local (to you) honey can drastically reduce allergy symptoms. I have suffered from seasonal allergies all my life and, fortunately for me, modern drugs takes care of most of my problems. This, however is not the case for my oldest, who suffers so badly from seasonal allergies that he ends up spending most of each spring indoors with a box of tissues as his constant companion. We have tried just about everything over the counter and prescription and nothing has worked satisfactorily. So, when I heard about the honey thing, I went right away and bought the biggest jug of local honey that I could find. Supposedly, the honey helps your body create antibodies to the pollen that is local to your area which acts to reduce your allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, I cannot really speak to the effectiveness of this treatment because over the winter, my nice jug of clear, liquid, honey turned into a brick of solid honey that I could not access. See?
This picture was taken After the husband had added some water to try to loosen it up. It was really a solid brick beforehand. Really, there was no way of getting this stuff out. The spout was too small to get any utensil in other than a chopstick and no amount of squeezing or shaking could move it. The husband joked that the only way to get to the honey was to cut off the top of the jug with a light saber. Ha!
This jug of honey and I have been eying each other for a long time. I have actually been avoiding recipes that call for honey because I really could not get a drop out of that jug. And to think I was overjoyed to find such a big jug! It would be accurate to say that bitterness has been growing in my heart towards this honey.
I did some research and found that heat could loosen up the honey, but as soon as it cooled, it would be hard as a brick again. Maybe I was being unreasonable, but I felt betrayed by my honey. I mean, I was depending on it to help my child and it let me down when I really needed it. Even if I could get some honey out, it would be grainy and hard. Who wants to spread grainy honey on their toast?
Well, I will tell you now, I am not one to be done in by a jug of honey. I decided to take care of that jug once and for all. So, yesterday, I pulled out a recipe that called for a lot of honey (12 ounces) and I tripled it to use up the entire jug. To get the honey out, I had to pour hot water in it and shake the jug. Luckily, the recipe calls for water, so I just took the water it called for and poured it little by little into the jug until I got it all out. After mixing up the batter and throwing it into the oven for about an hour, I had these.
It’s probably enough to last a lifetime…well, at least several months. The good thing is, we love this bread. It is basically a quick bread made with honey as its only sweetener and lots of spices. It’s pretty low in fat and has some rye flour in it, which gives it a nice hearty texture. It is really good spread with butter and eaten with a cup of tea. I am hoping that the health properties of the honey have not been compromised by baking it. But, just in case, I am going to get some more local honey to drizzle on top of the bread. This time, though, I think I’ll get a smaller jug.
If you want to make some of your own pain d’epices, you can find the recipe here. It’s a pretty quick and easy recipe and easy to multiply. The recipe calls for a 9 inch by 5 inch pan and I had 8.5 by 4.5. There seemed to be a LOT of batter, so I made a mini loaf to go with each large pan. It worked out well and I didn’t have to worry about the pans overflowing.