To celebrate what would have been Julia Child’s 108th birthday and to honor the end of the blueberry season, today I made an adaptation of Julia Child’s Blueberry Clafoutis. I am fortunate to live in South Jersey, close to Hammonton which is considered the Fresh Blueberry Capital of the world. It seems this season’s mid-July crop was particularly sweet and delicious. The farmer’s market in Collingswood hosts some really amazing vendors and farms including two organic farms. This July, Muth Family Farm had pints of blueberries which were not grown on their farm, but nearby at a certified organic farm called Homestead Farms. Some of these berries were almost the diameter of a quarter and so incredibly sweet and juicy. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a better blueberry. So, I bought a few pints of them and tried to learn what I could about the farm. Their online presence is almost non-existent, but there is a lot of other great information about New Jersey blueberries.
The most interesting thing I learned is that the first cultivated blueberry was developed by a woman named Elizabeth Coleman White in partnership with botanist and researcher Frederick Colville. Prior to 1916, blueberries were wild and Elizabeth gathered information on the various blueberry plants of the region and recorded their attributes. This information was crucial in assisting Colville in cross-fertilizing the berries to create new varieties with the most favorable flavor, texture, productivity and a resistance to cold and disease. In 1916 they developed the first commercial crop of blueberries under the name of Tru-Blu-Berries.
According to an article on NJ.com, the reason that blueberries grow so well in the Pine Barrens region of New Jersey is because of the sandy and acidic soil and the hot and humid weather. While other states (Michigan, Maine, Oregon and Washington) may have more blueberry farm acreage, Hammonton, New Jersey produces more berries for immediate consumption rather than for use in other products. Fortunately for me, these blueberries do not have far to travel before I get to eat them. The season in New Jersey starts in mid-June and wraps up in early August, with mid-July offering the sweetest, juiciest and most delicious berries. Now that I know this, I will be taking full advantage of this short season in years to come and I will stock up and preserve them by freezing, dehydrating and, of course, baking everything blueberry.
I imagine that Julia Child would have been (or maybe she was) as fascinated as I am with the story of the cultivated blueberry. Perhaps she also revered Elizabeth Coleman White for her participation in the creation of the perfect berry and thought about her when she made this blueberry clafoutis featured in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 cups blueberries
1 1/4 cups milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (this was not in the original recipe, but I really feel that it adds complexity)
2/3 cups flour (scooped and leveled)
Confectioners sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 7 to 8 cup fireproof/oven proof baking dish or skillet. Place milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, lemon zest and flour in a blender jar in the order they are listed. Cover and blend top speed for 1 minute.
Pour a 1/4 inch layer of batter in the baking dish or skillet. Set over moderate heat for a minute or two until a film of batter has set in the bottom of the dish. Remove from from heat.
Spread blueberries over the batter and sprinkle on the other 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Place in middle position of preheated oven and bake for about an hour. The clafoutis is done when it has puffed and browned, and a needle or knife purged into its center comes out clean. Sprinkle top of the clafoutis with powdered sugar before bringing it to the table. (The clafoutis need not be served hot, but should still be warm. It will sink down slightly as it cools.)