The idea to make a blueberry pie started with a rather prolific day of blueberry picking last summer at Fishkill Farms, which left us with way more berries than we really needed to make preserves. Having found a recipe for blueberry pie filling, I decided to give it a try.
It didn’t strike me, then, how misguided this solution was for the original problem. First off, we ended up with even more jars than we would have if we’d just done a bunch of preserves, and these jars further reduced our usable refrigerator space, sitting next to my bric-a brac of wine bottles, sausage casings, and onion jams (a piece of advice if you ever make onion jam: no matter how good it tastes, you probably won’t eat quite so much of it). Second, my regular readers — and WordPress tells me they really do exist! — will probably have noticed that opening a jar, pouring its contents into a store-bought crust, and calling it a day isn’t exactly the style we go for on this blog.
Ever since I posted my first mors (the Russian berry cocktail) about two years ago, I’ve been trying to come up with an even better recipe. Something more than a pleasant fruit punch; a kind of uncompromising antioxidant and vitamin bomb with a delicious, concentrated flavor. Recent articles on ChefSteps about fruit juice and fruit soda boosted my quest.
Not that I have any plans to acquire a $5,000 high speed centrifuge, mind you. What drew my attention on ChefSteps was the use of pectinase, an enzyme that breaks down pectin. Finally, I could get a beautiful, clear berry juice that wasn’t viscous, without applying any heat!
I’ve already posted a blueberry jam here a while back, but this recipe, adapted from Blue Ribbon Preserves, is also worth your time. And if you like picking your own berries, this is a great way to showcase the result of your efforts. (I picked mine at Fishkill Farms last summer.)
Although I’m usually against the American obsession of putting cinnamon in nearly every dessert, the spice happens to pair very well with blueberries, as long as the dosage remains very subtle: you should barely be able to taste that something’s been added.
The same applies to the amount of vodka. We’re not making blueberry liqueur; the goal is just to make the end result taste more complex, without being able to taste the alcohol.
Mors is a refreshing drink made of berries. Though cranberries are the most traditional choice, any berry in season can be used, and commercial brands in Russia and Ukraine offer anything from blackcurrant to raspberry. This version, made with red currants and blueberries, was inspired by the selection at the Union Square Greenmarket this morning — I avoid mixing more than 2 flavors, or it becomes hard to distinguish them in the final beverage.
Mors can be consumed by itself or in cocktails. More often than not, the cocktail is simply a shot of vodka on the side.
Red currant and blueberry mors
Yields about 3 glasses
5 oz red currant
5 oz blueberry
15 oz water
3 oz sugar (more or less, depending on your taste and the acidity of the berries)
1 tbsp lemon juice
- Place the berries and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pass the liquid through a chinois and return to the saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice, then bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, and remove from the heat. Pass through a chinois again, let cool and refrigerate.
- Serve with ice.
Blueberries are mostly found in North America, but their cousins, bilberries, are found all across Europe and are highly praised in berry-gathering, preserve-loving Russia. The Russian Wikipedia informs us that in 1964, Soviet Union issued a stamp representing bilberries, and the Great Soviet Encyclopedia mentions that bilberry juice can be used for the dubious purpose of coloring wine.
This blueberry jam is pretty low in added sugar — I find that many jam recipes are overly sweet. Try it with blini and tvorog!
Yields 1 pint
3 cups blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 g powdered pectin
12 oz sugar
- Crush the berries with a hand blender or a food processor. Do not process too long, as you want to keep chunks. Add the berries and lemon juice to a saucepan, sprinkle the pectin and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar progressively, bring back to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a sterilized pint jar, seal and process in a 200 F water bath for 15 minutes.
- Let cool for 30 minutes, refrigerate upside-down for 30 minutes, and flip.