Category Archives: Fruit

No-Sugar Blueberry Muffins with Basil Syrup

muffinsBlueberry muffins remind me of mom. In fact, making these muffins about brought me to tears. Before my mom died, I started collecting all of my favorite recipes of hers. It was as if we somehow knew the inevitable was coming. Some of them I wrote down onto white index cards. Others I learned by making while she told me what to do. While I collected a ton of treasured recipes, we didn’t talk about blueberry muffins. The muffins she would make that were so full of blueberries, they were more like bits of buttery bread holding juicy berries together. I remember the pastel muffin papers and how they would stain with the juices of the blueberries as they burst from the oven’s heat.

me_and_bettyFor years, I thought I’d never again be able to taste my mom’s blueberry muffins. That changed last week. I looked over at the shelf that now holds a tattered, coverless Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. My sister gave it to me as she packed to move. The cookbook caught my eye and it hit me! I bet the muffin recipe she followed is in that book!

muffin_cookbookSure enough, the pages that held the blueberry recipe I missed so much was tattered and stained. My mom had clearly had the cookbook open to this page more than once. In my nostalgic baking frenzy, I mixed the batter by hand and it wasn’t until the moment I was putting the pan of muffins into the oven that I realized what I had done. “Crap! I forgot to add sugar!” I contemplated for a second how I might correct my mistake. I wanted these muffins to turn out so bad! I thought better of it and put them in the oven. I’d cook them as is and make another batch later. When I ate the first, warm muffin though, I was delighted – light, buttery and full of blueberries more than batter, just like mom’s! I didn’t even miss the sugar!

The next day, I served them warm for breakfast, drizzled with a little homemade basil syrup and they were off the charts! My no-sugar mistake became the most happy accident. I don’t think I’ll be making these muffins with sugar in the future.


No-Sugar Blueberry Muffins

Adapted from Betty Crocker


1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk (I used a high quality, organic powdered milk I had on hand)
1/4 cup oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (or well-drained and thawed frozen blueberries)
(1/4 cup sugar – should you choose to make the muffins the original way)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with papers or grease the bottoms.

Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a medium-size mixing bowl. Gently fold in the remaining dry ingredients just until the flour is moistened. The batter will be a little lumpy. Gently fold in the blueberries, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups generously (at least 2/3 full). Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 1 dozen.

Basil Syrup

Slightly adapted from Tamara Murphy’s Tender

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (packed)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down to low, add the basil leaves and simmer for about 20 minutes. Make sure the leaves are submerged. Strain the leaves out of the syrup and enjoy.

Easy Pickled Cherries and Cherry Pit Liqueur

pickled_cherriesWhen I sent my friend a text of the pickled cherries I was brining, he joked, “You’re like that Portlandia episode.”

Truth be told, my whole life could be a Portlandia episode, but I’m especially ok with this one. I am currently experiencing pickle-mania and am trading in my jam recipes for pickle recipes. Since I’ve gotten so into pickling via fermentation (my recent batch of fermented giardiniera finds its way onto my plate at every meal), pickling is even easier.

bowl_of_cherriesI finally broke down and bought the pickling bible everyone has told me about, The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich, and it is amazing! I was dog-earing pages of recipes I wanted to try on my way out of the bookstore door. And there are so many fermentation pickles to try! The one that has really got me smitten though is the pickled cherries. I’ve had the book for a week and I’ve already made it twice. What makes it even better is that you don’t have to fire up the canner for this one. Inexperienced canners can pickle their hearts out – no canning supplies required!

jarI first had pickled cherries at last summer’s Outstanding in the Field and of all the amazing food we had that evening, the cherries are what I remember most. I don’t know if it was taste that got me or the fact that it had never occurred to me before to pickle something like a cherry. Whatever it was, I was hooked and when I cracked open my new pickling book, it was the first  thing I looked for and the first recipe I tried. I think you should try it too. Once you catch a glimpse and a whiff of the beautiful, fragrant brine, you’ll be so glad you did. The fact that the recipe is so dang simple is just the icing on the cake.

Pickled Cherries

Adapted from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich 

Makes 1 pint


2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and stemmed (Bing cherries make the most lovely colored brine)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 water
1 cardamom pod, cracked open
1 cinnamon stick


Day 1:
Place the cherries in a bowl and cover with the vinegar. Cover the bowl with a towel or some cheesecloth and let the cherries soak overnight.

Day 2:
Strain the vinegar into a nonreactive sauce pan and set the cherries aside. The cherries are not cooked or heated throughout the entire process to preserve their texture. Add the sugar, water and spices into the vinegar in the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Once the brine liquid is cool, pour over the cherries and let them stand at room temperature for 3 days. Again, cover the bowl with a towel or cheesecloth.

Day 5:
Once again, strain the pickling liquid into a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Add the cherries to a warm, sterilized mason jar. Once the brine is cool, pour it over the cherries, completely covering them. Close the jar tightly with a nonreactive cap –either the plastic reusable mason jar lids or the two-piece metal lid with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper in between the jar and the metal lid. That will keep it from rusting should the vinegary brine come in contact with the metal lid.

Store in the fridge or another cool, dark place for at least 1 month before eating. In her pickling cookbook, Ziedrich says the pickled cherries “will keep well even unrefrigerated for about 1 year.”



Bonus: Cherry Pit Liqueur

While pitting cherries, put the pits in a sterile mason jar. Cover with vodka or brandy and let it infuse for a couple of weeks. Make sure all the pits are completely covered with alcohol! The bits of cherry and pits lend an almond flavor to the alcohol – it’s easy to make and delicious. Once infused, strain the alcohol into a sterile mason jar to store and add the infused goodness to your homemade cocktails.

Beverage Gardening: Cardamom Orange Rhubarb Shrub

rhubarb_shrubI declared this summer to be the summer of shrubs – my refrigerator is full of my concoctions! I’ve swapped out my simple syrup recipes for my own shrub creations and use them to make homemade sodas. The basic ratio for a shrub syrup, which is a drinking vinegar, is 1:1:1 (e.g. 1 cup fruit, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup vinegar). I’ve been playing around with the ratio a bit, using less sugar, especially when the fruit is sweet. The possibilities are endless!

Image (1) wrote a pretty comprehensive article about shrubs. You can check it out here! You can also learn about shrub-making and other tasty beverages in my upcoming class, Beverage Gardening, on August 3rd. It’s the last Beverage Gardening class of the season! Click here to register.

Cardamom Orange Rhubarb Shrub Syrup

~ 1 1/2 cups rhubarb (about one large stalk), chopped
a couple large orange slices
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 cardamom pod, lightly cracked open

Create the Shrub:

Put the rhubarb, orange slices, cardamom and sugar in a quart-size mason jar. Put a lid on the jar and shake around to coat the rhubarb and orange with sugar. Stick the jar in the fridge and allow to macerate overnight.

The next day, add the vinegar to the jar and stir with a wooden spoon or chopstick to dissolve most of the sugar. Label with the date and store in the fridge for a week to allow the flavor to develop.

After a week, strain the fruit out of the jar and transfer the flavored vinegar to a clean quart jar. Start using immediately. Shrubs should be stored in the fridge and will last for several months..that is, unless you drink it as much as I do.

Make a Drink:

Fill a pint glass with ice. Add two tablespoons of shrub syrup to the glass and fill the glass with sparkling water. Stir to incorporate, add a fanciful straw and enjoy!

Summer Fruit for Winter Smoothies

blueberriesYesterday, I went blueberry picking for the first time this season. You know how much I love blueberries – they’re my favorite! Rachel and I made it a sister date and enjoyed over an hour of picking with practically the whole farm to ourselves.

I decided to buy a membership at Blue Dog Blueberry Farm in Carnation, which means I can go blueberry picking on their farm whenever I want! You weigh and pay for the blueberries yourself. Sunset blueberry picking? Sure! Monday morning picking? Absolutely! Whenever I want, like it’s my farm!

Photo1 (1)As I looked at my pantry, still full of last summer’s fruit, and I decided what to do with this year’s harvests. I’ll be freezing all of it. I just don’t eat jam as much as I think I would. What I do know is that I use my new Vitamix all the time and if I can put up enough fruit to add a little summer to my smoothies all winter long, I’ll be a happy girl!

What’s your favorite way to preserve summer fruit?