I just turned almost-forty. I believe I’ll refer to my entire year that way, because this is my last year before that big four-oh. I think the almost-forty was probably harder than the actual-forty will be to face. The decade birthdays seem like a celebration, where the ones that immediately precede somehow seem like a clanking bell. Or is it just me?
As an almost-forty gift, my family gave me something that makes me happier than just about anything else I can imagine. The boys and I had planned to go to the opening day of our local blueberry patch to attempt to put a sizable dent in our annual one-hundred-pounds-of-blueberries goal. My husband surprised me by taking the morning off of work to accompany us. When I say this never happens I am not exaggerating. My husband works hard and he works long hours, so this was a gift I never expected. He has never seen the boys and me in picking action.
We loaded up the van with every mixing bowl and colander we own, a wagon to pull the aforementioned vessels on the quarter mile trek to and from the patch from the parking area, hats, water bottles, and a wallet full of cash. Once in the berry patch, we tied buckets at our waists and went to town, proverbially. About twenty minutes later, my eldest emptied his first filled bucket into a colander, much to my husband’s surprise. Moments later, my thirteen year old emptied his bucket. A few minutes later, the eleven year old emptied his, and so on. My husband was flabbergasted by their speed. We filled everything we had brought to fill (including a three gallon food safe bucket, an enameled wash pan, four massive mixing bowls, two colanders, and a big Tupperware bowl) and took them to the weigh station to tally up our take.
The experience was complete when the man weighing our berries gestured to the boys and me and informed my husband, “These are our champion pickers. I remember the first year they came. They picked til the boys were tired. They slept under that pine tree and your wife just kept picking. We had never had anyone pick one hundred pounds in one day before.
Ah. If I’m remembered for one thing in life and berry picking prowess is that thing, I’m a happy girl. That my dear husband got a completely unsolicited shining review on his wife’s berry picking was icing on the cake… Or should I say cream on the berries?
So what do I do with that berry bounty? Aside from the requisite jam, pies, cobblers, crisps and whatnot, I love to make Blueberry Lime Syrup. It’s a take on a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I swap out lime juice and lime zest for the specified lemon juice and zest. If you’d prefer, you can swap it back to the original form, but we like the extra sweetness that lime provides.
Once the syrup is made, we eat it on pancakes and waffles, like the book recommends, but also like it on French toast and we consume even more of it in the form of Blueberry Soda. It’s an easy, healthy alternative to bottled sodas and my kids can’t get enough.
Just How Fresh Should Your Berries Be?
If your blueberries are fresh off of the bush, you may wish to let them age for a few days before attempting the syrup because of the natural pectin in the berries. If you don’t wait, you’ll get much thicker (and possibly even fully gelled!) syrup.