Monday, August 12, 2013

Blueberry Picking + Blueberry Lemonade

One of my favorite memories while growing up was going apple picking with my family in the fall. During summertime, we would occasionally go strawberry picking as well, and I can still remember the aroma of my grandmother's strawberry jam cooking away on the stove after those excursions.

One fruit I had never had the pleasure of picking during my youth was blueberries. It occurred to me recently that this would be a great opportunity to take my nephews blueberry picking so they could take part in this summertime tradition as so many others have.

We headed to Harmony Farms, which almost felt like it was in the middle of nowhere (it wasn't, but it was far into parts of Rhode Island we had never before ventured).

Harmony Farms features pick-your-own options for blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, and apples, depending on the season.

During the time that I visited, raspberry season was already over, but blueberries, blackberries, and peaches were all available to be picked. The farm also sells honey that they produce, along with jam and local maple syrup.

Rows upon rows of blueberry bushes invited us to pluck sweet berries from their branches.

I could have spent all day there, honestly. Even though I made off with nearly 3 1/2 pounds of berries (for $9 and change--not a bad deal!), I would have happily collected more.

My 4 1/2-year-old nephew had a blast picking blueberries and periodically running over to show me how many he had, and compare his box to mine. Auntie fared a bit better, but she has bigger hands and a focused determination :)

My 1-year-old nephew pretty much just ran around (making my sister chase him) and ate blueberries off the bushes, and sometimes off the ground (whoops!).

As he ran through the blueberry bushes, it reminded me of the scene at the end of The Godfather when Vito Corleone has a heart attack while his grandson is running through the orange trees :)

It was so nice not only to share this great experience with my nephews, but also to pick some really lovely locally grown fruit that I could use in a myriad of creations.

The toughest part of the experience was deciding how to utilize my newly acquired stash of ripe blueberries.

Blueberry jam

I actually used them in a few different ways. First of all, I made a batch of blueberry jam. This way I can enjoy my pickings well into the winter (if the jam even lasts that long). I ended up with 4 pints, but I can see us polishing that off before the first frost. I also used some blueberries in a rustic peach, cherry, and blueberry tart.

Peach, cherry, and blueberry tart

Finally, I recreated a fabulous cocktail I enjoyed this summer at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI. This Blueberry Lemonade is spiked with Blueberry Stoli vodka and St. Germain (an elderflower liquor), but it doesn't taste strong at all. It's so refreshing and light, one could easily mistake it for a virgin cocktail. It's not :)

A friend recently made this same cocktail with fresh raspberries and Raspberry Stoli and it was equally delightful! It's a great drink to make for company, but also when you need a summery pick-me-up.

I recommend using homemade or very good quality store-bought lemonade. The last thing you want to do when you have beautiful fruit and expensive liquor is to ruin it with a corn syrup-laden excuse for lemonade. My drinks weren't quite as bright purple as the ones at Castle Hill Inn (you can see a photo of theirs in the link below), but they were every bit as delicious! I think I went a little light on the ice and therefore used more lemonade to fill the glass (which lightened it up a bit in color).

Blueberry Lemonade
Makes 1 drink
(Adapted from Castle Hill Inn via In Style Magazine)

1 ounce fresh whole blueberries
1 1/2 ounces Stolichnaya Blueberry vodka
1/4 ounce St. Germain
Juice from 1 lemon wedge
Lemonade, to fill
Lemon wedge, for garnish
Fresh whole blueberries, for garnish

Muddle the blueberries in a highball glass. Fill the glass about halfway with ice and add the vodka, St. Germain, and lemon juice. Fill the rest of the glass with lemonade and stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a few fresh blueberries. Serve immediately.

Harmony Farms
359 Saw Mill Road
Harmony, RI 02857


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