Picking berries and mushrooms in the wild is one of my passions. I can’t wait for the blueberries to ripen for picking and when they are very abundant I can even pick some for friends or relatives. When I lived in La Tuque in Haute-Mauricie, my friends and I had discovered so abundant hills that the bunches of blueberries were as big as bunches of grapes. An 8-liter (2-gallon) container was filled in 20 minutes. This Blueberry Streusel Cake from my book Les Grands Classiques de la Cuisine d’ici and these Grandfathers with blueberries from Quebec cuisine have been part of our culinary repertoire for many years. To savor the fresh blueberries, I often prepare a last-minute dessert by mixing plain yogurt (8-10% fat) with fresh blueberries and honey.
History of blueberry in Quebec
It was in the Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean in 1870, following a major fire that devastated much of the Roberval city area, that settlers began to harvest blueberries for their own consumption and began exporting. A little later, around 1880, the arrival of the railway greatly contributed to the boom in the export of blueberries. By the 1960s, blueberries were established in the region. Blueberries have always been part of the diet of Native Americans and they still dry them to feast during the winter season. They also prepare pemmican, a paste of blueberries that cooks for several hours in a large cauldron placed over a wood fire.
Blueberry picking in Quebec
Blueberries are ready to harvest from the third week of July until mid August. It is in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region that the biggest pickings of blueberries are made in Quebec. Wild blueberries are also abundant in the Haute-Mauricie, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Gaspésie and Charlevoix regions. In many areas, growers produce high bush blueberries that are larger than wild blueberries and grow in a shrub about 1 meter high.
Pick your own farms.
It is by browsing the web that I spotted these links that will be useful for pick your own farms.
Saguenay Lac Saint-Jean
Haut-Saint-Laurent and Haut Richelieu
Estrie, Center-du-Québec, Laurentians, Montérégie
A trick to heal a bee sting
If a bee stings, just rub the skin with a handful of moist soil to counter the effect of the sting. It’s an old trick I learned from my stepfather and believe me it’s effective! A few minutes after applying the soil the pain disappears completely. When you come home, you just need to clean and sanitize the sting.
Outings and shopping blueberry
Amateur enthusiasts may like to visit the Blueberry Festival which takes place in Mistassini in August of each year. At the same time, they will be able to get the delicious fresh blueberry chocolate from the Trappist Fathers of the same city. In the area, there are several shops to shop for articles on the theme of “blue pearls” and I suggest you among other things a visit to La Maison du Bleuet We find everything: pies, jams, chocolates, soaps, vinegars, wines, pottery, jewels and so on … In the Quebec City region The blueberries of Vire Crêpes offers several blueberry products and here is a link to buy jewels bleuetdart.com
Cooking with blueberries
Nothing matches the flavor of fresh wild blueberries. They are recognizable by their dark blue color shaded with pale blue. The big blueberries offered in our supermarkets have less flavor than wild blueberries. Like most berries, it’s best not to wash the blueberries unless they contain a lot of soil. In this case, they are rinsed with running water and perfectly drained just before using them. They can be refrigerated unwashed for one to two weeks and one year in the freezer. They are added frozen to pastries which will take a few more minutes to cook.
Food pairing with blueberries
Chocolate, juice and zest of lemon, cream, cinnamon, honey, peach, apple, maple syrup, sugar and brown sugar.