I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many berry pickers as this year in the White Pass near Fraser, B.C., southern Yukon’s favourite place to find blueberries. The pandemic was driving us out into the stunning moonscape of small lakes, rock, balsam fir, lichen, alder and dwarf birch from Log Cabin to Summit Creek in search of an outing and of berries, whether we call them blueberries, huckleberries or bilberries (the vernacular is so confusing!).
Some grow high (Vaccinium ovafolium) and some grow low (Vaccinium uliganosum, Vaccinium caespitosum), most require twisting the body into pretzel shapes, balancing on tree roots and dancing amongst boulders in order to get to the plants. This was an activity I found absolutely crazy the first time I went, brought by new friends the year I arrived in Whitehorse. “Why would you even do this for a yogurt container of berries?” was my attitude then, perched with one foot on a rock and the other in a hard place.
Now I can’t imagine not going on this annual pilgrimage, even if I already have berries in the freezer. It’s a seasonal touchstone, a way of connecting to the annual round of foraging, of re-grounding oneself in the landscape. I remember every spot and who I went with, what the weather was like, how much we harvested, what we ate for our snack, which dogs were with us, whether we saw a bear. (For me, never, just lots of blue poop. The dogs’ poop is often blue the next day too.)
When I put the bags of cleaned berries away in the freezer, I write the date and the place they were from. And so the memory is cooked right into the berries.
- 3 cups wild blueberries
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp whisky, bourbon or vanilla
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 5 oz Camembert or Brie, cut into 5 or 6 thin slices.
- (For more bite, use a stronger cheese like old Cheddar or Parmesan.)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Combine 2 cups blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small pot. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add the remaining cup of blueberries and cook 5 minutes more. (There’s so much juice in the berries you don’t need to add water.)
- If the compote is too liquid for your liking, strain into a small bowl, reserve the fruit, return the liquid to the pot and simmer until reduced to a syrup. Mix in berries, cook for 1 minute more and remove from heat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Compote will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks.
Makes about 2 cups.
Camembert Dutch Baby
- Whisk flour and milk together in a medium bowl. Your goal is to eliminate as many lumps from the batter as possible, so start here. Whisk in eggs, followed by vanilla, salt and sugar.
- Whisk until no lumps remain, and allow the batter to sit for 20 minutes so that the flour absorbs the liquid. (You can always make the batter in a food processor or blender to get really lump-free.)
- Put a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and heat the oven to 425F. When the oven beeps, remove the hot pan and add the butter, swirling so that it coats bottom and sides. Carefully pour the batter evenly into the pan, and lay the slices of cheese across the batter.
(Remember the pan is really hot. Put an oven mitt across the handle to remind yourself.)
- Return the pan to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffy, golden brown on top, and a darker brown at the edges.
The Dutch baby will deflate as soon as you remove it from the oven, but don’t worry. You are left with a concoction with a crispy bottom and a soft interior, covered in caramelized melted cheese.
Serve at the table (remember, the pan is really hot!) with a bowl of compote, or slice into wedges and plate.
Makes 1 large pancake, enough for 2 to 3 servings.