Friday, August 13, 2010

Blue, Blue Blueberries!

I spent a little time last week here in the Catskills picking blueberries--and the same thing is happening in Ukraine.  Last week, the small community of Guklyvy in the Transcarpathian Region held a blueberry festival which included the unveiling of a blueberry statue, and of course, blueberries in many forms.   Blueberries are an important food source for people in the Carpathians and also a significant seasonal, supplemental income source. Families pick berries together, eating some fresh and preserving the rest in jams, juices and thick sauces.   Children often sell them in villages or along the side of the road, holding out glass jars full, with their little arms, as you drive the winding mountain roads. Wild blueberries from this region are tiny and rather dark in color. A friend of Sarah's makes something akin to a parfait, layering sugared berries with smetana (sour cream)  creamy white and dark blue, beautiful, delicate and delicious.

In the Carpathians and other regions of Ukraine the blueberries are on wild, low bushes, rather than the high bush variety more commonly seen in the United States. In Polissa, a region of Central Ukraine,  an agro-tourism website extols berry picking both as centuries old tradition and now as fun activity for tourists.  And as anyone who's ever been berry picking can attest, it's immensely satisfying both to eat along the way and to come home with a bucketful.

And what to do with all those blueberries?  At the festival in Guklyvy there was blueberry vodka at right in the above photo and blueberry fillings for varenyky and blini, center.    On the left, some sort of blueberry tart.

Interestingly, a quick google found references to Ukrainians and blueberry picking here in the United States, near Lake Erie and northern New York.   And if you haven't eaten all your fresh berries, hanks to  here's a recipe for blueberry varenyky, both dough and filling.  Enjoy--and please share your pictures and memories of berry picking in Ukraine.

2 cups blueberries (wild blueberries preferred)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter, melted
Sour cream, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 cups blueberries

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter, melted
Cold water

FOR THE SAUCE: In saucepan, stir together blueberries, sugar and flour; add lemon juice and 1/4 cup water. Simmer over low heat until blueberries are soft and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

FOR THE DOUGH: In large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk and butter; stir into flour mixture. Add cold water, 1 tbsp. at a time (6 to 7 tbsp. total), until soft dough is formed. Knead until dough is smooth. Cover with plastic and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough to scant 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 3 inch rounds.

FILLING: Whisk together sugar and flour; set aside. Stretch out cut out dough rounds slightly and fill each round with scant 1 tsp. flour/ sugar mixture and 1 Tbsp. blueberries. Pull dough over filling; pinch edges together to seal.

Continue until dough and filling are used up, letting reworked scraps rest slightly before rolling (keep unrolled dough and filled dumplings covered with a clean tea towel).

In large pot of lightly salted boiled water, boil dumpling, in batches if necessary, until dough is tender at thickest edges, about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to serving plate; drizzle with butter to prevent sticking. Serve with blueberry sauce and sour cream on the side. Makes 32 to 36 dumplings.

FOOD TIP: any leftover dough can be rolled into noodles, boiled and served with butter or sour cream.

Photos from ForUM and
post by Linda and Sarah

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