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Recipes and Stories

20 June 2016: Fresh Blueberry Compote for the First Day of Summer

Fresh Blueberry Compote with Bourbon and Cinnamon

Today’s the summer solstice, the longest day in the year (or rather, the longest stretch of daylight), marking the official beginning of summer. Our ancestors made a bigger thing of the solstice than we do nowadays, but its a good excuse to turn a regular back-to-the-grind Monday into something a little more special.

It needn’t be any more involved than taking a little more care with tonight’s supper, say, finishing it off with one of the quintessential fruits of early summer’s table: fresh blueberries. This a truly native American fruit’s tart-sweet flavor and deep, royal color are the very essence of the season. They’re the perfect berry for summer favorites like cobbler, pie, and an old-fashioned crumble, and are also lovely flambéed and served over ice cream just like Cherries Jubilee, but one of the simplest and best ways of enjoying them requires no cooking at all.

Blueberry-Orange Bourbon Compote

Though not as showy as the flambéed blueberries that I shared a few years back, this compote is better suited to a hot first-day-of-summer evening, since the only “cooking” involved is a light soak in a little raw sugar and a couple of spoonfuls of whiskey. You just leave it for those two to work their magic and go enjoy a tall, cool glass of something on your back porch or patio.

Serves 4

1 pint blueberries
Julienned zest of 1 lemon or half an orange
2-3 tablespoons raw (turbinado) sugar
Ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons bourbon
Freshly squeezed Lemon juice
4-8 scoops vanilla ice cream or orange sherbet

1. Wash and pick over the berries for stems and withered fruit. Put the berries and zest in a glass or ceramic bowl and sprinkle in the sugar, cinnamon to taste, and bourbon. Toss well. Using a fork, mash a few of the softer berries against the side of the bowl. Let it macerate for at least 1 hour or as long as 2 hours.

2. Taste and adjust the cinnamon and, if it needs more sweetness (add a little superfine sugar or pulverized granulated sugar—it dissolves more quickly), stir well, and add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Let it sit for another 10-15 minutes, then serve it over ice cream or orange sherbet.

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