A Lost Watch And The Last Of The Blueberries

Baked Blueberry Squares
Yield: 20 Squares

Blueberry Squares and Streusel


  • Filling
  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 3 cups sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Base
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Streusel
  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9x13-inch pan, line with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. (This will make it easier to remove the squares and slice them.)
  2. Combine the berries, sugar and lemon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the juices are released, and the berries are bubbling, about 15 minutes.
  3. Dissolve cornstarch in water and stir into berries. Continue cooking until thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  4. Make the base: beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.
  5. In another bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder together. Stir into the butter mixture until thoroughly combined.
  6. Press dough evenly into the baking pan and blind bake (bake without the filling, first) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  7. Make streusel: whisk the brown sugar and flour together. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.
  8. Spread blueberries evenly over the base and sprinkle streusel over top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the whole pan is bubbling, and the streusel is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Wait until completely cool before cutting into squares.

On a fall day in Scotland, many years ago, a ruddy man in a Land Rover picked up my companion and me as we hitchhiked through the mountains of Glen Coe. He was kind and chatty, eager to tell us the lore of the region.

We drove by a stone church flanked by two mountain ash trees, their berries red and shining, and he said, “Aren’t they beautiful? Do you know why they plant rowans by the church door?” We shook our heads. “To keep evil at bay and prevent enchantment. People around here believe the rowan has deep powers.”

I asked, “Do you believe?”

He replied, “Well, I may not believe, but I pay attention.”

I had cause to remember those words on a fall day, a few weeks ago, on the last day of blueberry picking. I was with my blueberry buddies, a bunch of women I see on scattered occasions throughout the year—bonfires, feasts—and always, without fail, at blueberry time.

We range in age from the mid-’40s to the early 70s. The two in their 70s used to be teachers in the Catholic school system, and this comes out sometimes in conversation. On this day, our little band was graced with the addition of a 12-year-old, the cleanest picker in the crew.

We knew it was late in the season and discussed strategy all the way down the highway to Fraser B.C. We couldn’t cross the border to search our favourite spots because, ahem, somebody had forgotten their passport. (It might have been me.)

So, Plan B. We’d go up that hill where everybody always went, in hopes of finding what others had missed. At first it was disheartening: many bushes, few berries. Definitely picked out. But the 12-year-old said if we kept pushing through the bush a little deeper, we might get lucky.

So we pushed through a little deeper, scrambling up rocks and stumbling into ravines, each exploring our own territory, poked by branches and bitten by black flies, shouting intermittently to indicate our position and well-being, and we each found treasure: the magic of a hidden bush just bursting with blueberries.

After a few hours, I put down my bucket to check the time. I pushed my sleeve up my wrist, and—my watch was gone. Fallen off somewhere. My heart sank. It was my dad’s watch. I used to wind it for him. There was no way I could retrace my steps. There was no point in telling anyone else; it would just make them sad.

But something prompted me to call out, “I lost my dad’s watch!” Cries of concern came from all around, and everybody drew in. G, in the clearing next to me, uttered a quick prayer to St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost items, and opened her mouth to say “Let’s start looking,” when “I found it!” she cried. “Here it is. Right at my feet.” St. Anthony had come through. I yelled to G, “Thank you, I love you!”

My spiritual beliefs are not tied to religion, though I was raised a Catholic. But, with my dad’s watch safely strapped around my wrist, and 11 cups of blueberries in my bucket, the words of the Glen Coe man ran through my head:

“I may not believe, but I pay attention.”

Here are a couple of recipes for the last of the blueberries, with thanks to the blueberry buddies: J, N, M and, especially, G.

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