Blueberries always have ranked as a favorite fruit in our family.
When just a young boy, I can remember helping my Auntie Lilly, who passed away far too soon in 1994, pick wild blueberries in the woods, a tedious task since they are small and grow on low bushes. My Auntie Wanda, 88, still ranks these little blue wonders of the woods as her favorite treat.
While at my events, readers have reminded me that while I refer to them as "wild blueberries," many people still also call them "huckleberries," a tag that has earned its place in literature, music and pop culture. There's Mark Twain's 1884 classic American novel "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the song "Moon River" composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its first performance by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's." However, the song and its line "...My Huckleberry friend, Moon River and Me..." are most often associated as the tune sung by the late, great Andy Williams, who we lost last September at age 84.
Even cartoon greats Hanna and Barbera gave us Huckleberry Hound in 1957, named in honor of Twain. (They almost named Yogi Bear as "Huckleberry Bear" when he was introduced as a supporting character on "The Huckleberry Hound Show" and then given his own show the following year in 1958).
When my dad and his older sisters Lilly and Wanda began helping Grandma Potempa pick wild blueberries during the Great Depression (it took a lot of picking for a big Polish family with nine children!), at the time, we had no knowledge of the recent studies that show the anthocyanins that give blueberries their intense blue color fight cancer and retard the effects of aging, like memory loss.
And besides taste and flavor, best of all, today's blueberry bushes rank in the tops as a drought and disease-resistant crop.
Reader Greg Starrett of Munster wrote me after last week's column featuring wild black raspberries asking about the photo included with the published narrative and recipe.
"Dear Phil: I enjoyed your article on black raspberries. I too enjoy picking them, eating them, and making jelly. The pie recipe sounds fantastic. One thing, the photo accompanying the article clearly shows blackberries, NOT black raspberries. That could confuse those new to berry picking. Sincerely, Greg Starrett"
Thank you to Greg and to other readers who contacted me about the same subject. The photo included last week is one I snapped. And yes, despite the large and plump appearance, and deep color, the berries showcased ARE in fact wild black raspberries from early July. Since they are stacked, it might make the photo seem deceiving.
This week, I asked my mom to pose with some handfuls of both wild blueberries contrasted with the cultivated blueberries to share with readers the size and distinction.
As for this week's recipe, I decided to share a great find from the kitchen of a southern favorite female of television fame, Dinah Shore, who died in 1994 at age 77. Tennessee born and raised, her cornmeal pancakes are perfect with a few scattered wild blueberries or the traditional larger variety, depending on what you have available at your fingertips.
"Pancakes are easy. Try these, they're deliciously different from everyday ordinary buttermilk pancakes," says Dinah in the note with her recipe.
NOTE: I'll be heading down to the Indiana State Fair this weekend through early next week for my birthday writing about the people and competitions. If you know someone from our readership who are entered and representing us from Northwest Indiana, please contact me so I can connect with them and keep our readership up-to-date on their experiences. And Good Luck to All!
Dinah Shore's Southern Cornmeal Pancakes
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 scant tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup wild blueberries or 1 cup traditional blueberries
DIRECTIONS: Combine cornmeal, sugar and salt in large bowl. Slowly stir in boiling water; cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Sift flour with baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg, milk and butter until smooth. Pour into cornmeal batter, along with flour mixture, stirring quickly only until combined. Meanwhile, slowly heat griddle or heavy skillet. To test temperature, drop a little cold water onto hot griddle. Water should roll off in drops. Use scant 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Pour batter into pan and scatter a few berries across each pool of spreading batter. Cook until bubbles form on surface and edges become dry. Turn and cook 2 minutes longer, or until nice and golden. Serve with melted butter and warm maple syrup. Makes 10 pancakes to serve 4.