Sweet and succulent, fresh, ripe blueberries make a wonderful early summer treat in Texas. The berries, rich in antioxidants, are good for snacking right out of the container (or straight off the bush) and are featured in a number of delicious recipes.
The state’s blueberry industry is a relative newcomer, with the first large experimental crop being cultivated in the 1970s at a Texas A&M University research center, according to the Texas Blueberry Marketing Association. From there, heavy commercial production began in the mid-1980s.
The sandy soils of East Texas are ideal for the crop, and fresh blueberries are sold throughout the season (May, June and July) at markets across the state. Or true-blue (berry) mavens can take a road trip to one of the region’s pick-your-own farms.
Even in New York City, Texas blueberries get their due. Lisa Fain, the author of a wonderful cooking blog called the Homesick Texan, is a transplanted Texan living in the big city. She missed the food she grew up with as a seventh-generation Texan and has re-created food from all across her native state.
She recently collected those and other recipes in The Homesick Texan Cookbook (2011, Hyperion), featuring many Lone Star-inspired dishes. Among them is this sweet one that puts blueberries front and center.
Blueberries with Cornmeal Shortcakes
2 cups blueberries
7 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, divided
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, chilled
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Toss blueberries with 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, so berries will become soft and juicy.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour large cast-iron skillet or baking sheet and place metal mixing bowl in freezer. Mix 3 tablespoons sugar, flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into pieces and work into flour mixture with your hands or pastry blender until it resembles pea-sized crumbs. Add half-and-half, mixing until dough is loose and sticky. Remove dough to floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. Sprinkle more flour on surface if dough sticks. Roll or pat dough until 1/4 inch thick, then fold in half. Using round 2-inch cutter or drinking glass, cut out biscuits from dough. You should get eight rounds. Place biscuits close together, about 1/8 inch apart, in cast-iron skillet or baking sheet (so they rise up, not out) and bake 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove metal bowl from freezer. Pour in heavy cream and whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and vanilla. With electric mixer, whisk or eggbeater, beat cream until it triples in size—thick with soft peaks.
To assemble shortcakes, slice each biscuit in half. Place 1/4 cup of blueberries atop one biscuit half, then top with whipped cream and second biscuit half.
Servings: 8. Serving size: 1 shortcake with topping. Per serving: 530 calories, 5.3 g protein, 34.5 g fat, 47.2 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g dietary fiber, 363 mg sodium, 15.1 g sugars, 120 mg cholesterol