August 23, 2011

Blueberry Soup

When I was growing up, my family went on vacation every summer. Most years that meant getting in the car and driving, usually to a national park. 

One summer we drove up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. These were the days before GoogleMaps and GPS and Travelocity and Expedia. Planning a trip meant visiting your local AAA office. The folks at AAA would pull together a spiral-bound TripTik, highlighting your route. (You’d flip the page as you progressed along your drive.) They’d hand you a bunch of maps and some guides listing attractions and hotels near your destination.

To the best of my memory, my parents never booked our hotels ahead of time. We’d drive until my parents tired of driving, then we’d go from hotel to hotel until we found a vacancy. I can still picture my sister and I sitting in the back seat of our station wagon, dog tired after a day of driving and sight seeing, just praying for a hotel room and a bed to sleep in.

Dining was somewhat hit-or-miss on these vacations as well. Usually we'd end up at a decent-looking restaurant that we happened to spot on the road.

But sometimes we’d stumble across a real gem. That’s what happened on our trip to New Hampshire. I’m not sure if my parents had read about this place or heard about it from a local, but we ended up at a quaint little Inn for dinner. 

I’m sad to say that I don’t remember the name of the place, or even most of what we ate. But one dish that made a huge impression on me was their blueberry soup.

Fruit soup! I’d never heard of such a thing! I fell in love with the soup, both because it was so unexpected and also because it was sweet, cool and perfectly refreshing on a hot August evening. In today’s terms, the soup would have been billed as “local, seasonal, farm-to-table cooking”. Back then, it was just what they were serving for dinner.

I never forgot that soup. And when I came across a recipe for blueberry soup in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, I jumped on it. All these years later, the soup still makes an impression for its unexpected ingredients and vibrant color. And it never fails to take me back to our annual family vacations.

Make this soup when blueberries are in season, when the berries are ripe and sweet and really taste of blueberries. Rinse your berries and pick through them, discarding rotten berries and picking out any stems.

Combine the blueberries in a saucepan with water, sugar, and cinnamon. Adjust the amount of sugar according to the sweetness of your berries. Err on the side of using too little sugar at this point. You can always add more later.

Bring the mixture to a boil then let it simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the blueberries break down.

Let the mixture cool, then transfer to a blender.

Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add more sugar and/or cinnamon at this point if you need to.

Pour the blueberry mixture through a sieve into a large bowl. The sieve will catch the tiny seeds and bits of blueberry peel.

Add the yogurt to the blueberry mixture and combine well. A whisk works well for this job.

Chill the soup in the fridge for several hours before serving.

Blueberry Soup

Recipe by Mark Bittman from How to Cook Everything

1 pint blueberries, picked over and washed
2 cups water
½ cup sugar, plus more if needed (I only use about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup plain yogurt

1.      Combine the blueberries, water, sugar and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the blueberries fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.      Cool the mixture a little, then puree in a blender, taking care not to burn yourself. Taste and add more sugar or cinnamon if necessary. Pass through a strainer.

3.      Chill, then stir in yogurt or sour cream. Serve cold.

Serves 4

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