Friday, July 9, 2010

East Texas Blueberries and Family

For the 4th of July weekend, we packed up the travel trailer and headed to Gramma’s house.  Aside from Independence Day, the 4th of July also is the time of the summer when blueberries in East Texas are at their peak.  If you have kept up with me on Facebook, you probably already know that I have a soft spot for blueberries, particularly a recipe for blueberry pie that I stole from America’s Test Kitchen.  Over the last couple of years, my family has made some fun and fantastic memories reviving the near lost art of canning.  It’s something that has been a big part of our family heritage, something my grandmother and mom have done for decades, but it quite nearly slipped right on by “our” generation.  Capturing fruits and vegetables at their peak of freshness and flavor and suspending that quality to be enjoyed offseason is truly a special treat.  If this is something you are considering, I would caution that it isn’t necessarily a cost saving measure.  With the investments we have made in kitchenwares, jars, ingredients and time, it isn’t much cheaper than what you would pay in the store.  But the reward comes in the primo quality of the ingredients, the lack of additives and chemicals, and most importantly, the invaluable time and memories with family.  As a family, we have done strawberries, blueberries and peaches (those are the most common and favorites), but we have also done tomatoes and mangoes with spectacular success.

For fresh blueberries, we prefer to freeze them, rather than canning.  They hold up amazingly well and are really quite tasty still frozen.  Freezing them also makes them easy to use for a wide variety of purposes, such as the pie I mentioned earlier, or pancakes, or muffins, or smoothies… did I mention pie???  My sisters were looking more for blueberry preserves, which by the way, was also amazing.  My mother, being the wonderful mother that she is, made several trips to the blueberry farm to pick up all the many gallons of fresh blueberries.  By the time we got there late Friday night, she had already cleaned and froze some 12 gallons of blueberries in quart size bags.  With that chore out of the way, we were able to spend Saturday making the preserves.  While Brenda, my sisters and mom worked on the preserves,  I spent my morning focused on the task of LUNCH!  Smoked pork tenderloin was on the menu and man, did we ever feast!   We may have gone a touch overboard, since we ended up packing up 7lbs of tasty pork to freeze after it was all said and done. 

Sunday, the girls went to Canton while Richard and I took the kiddos to the indoor water park near my parents house.  I know, I know, it sounds positively crazy to take kids to an indoor water park when it was a beautiful sunny weekend, but these kids burn way too easily.  Richard and I would have been in deep trouble if we brought home 4 little beat red lobsters!  Sunday evening brought more family and friends and MORE food!  I was back on the grill manning the burgers and dogs.  After dinner Richard and I put on a fireworks show that only scared half the kids.  It was definitely not a typical day as the kiddos were all still up and eating ice cream at 10:30 that night!  Needless to say, they all slept well that night.

I have about 20 quarts of frozen blueberries safely stashed away in my freezer, just waiting for the yearn for a blueberry pie to overtake my senses.  We also dutifully delivered another 20 quarts to my favorite in-laws.  I am hoping that will keep Cheryl out of MY blueberries, though I can’t be certain.  :0)~

Other exciting news for the weekend, Hailey can now face forward in her car seat.  It only took 14 and 1/2 months to get there!  Brenda bought her front-facing car seat on her way home from work on Friday, so the trip to Gramma’s house was her first time to use it.  She was thrilled!  We didn’t take many pictures this weekend for some reason, but I have posted a few cute ones in the photo album.