Picking berries, a national pastime

by tableofcolors

In Finland most people pick berries. If they don’t themselves, then most likely their parents, mother or father-in-law, an aunt or someone in the family does. When we were a newlywed couple, we would receive blueberries, lingonberries, red currants, juice made from black currants and apple sauce from our mother-in-law. They all went into our freezer and throughout the winter months we used these vitamin-rich treats.

In more recent years we have been picking our own berries. Or actually my husband picks our berries and cleans them and I just pour them into containers and freeze them. I get by way too easily.

Our family has two different types of berry picking excursions. One is the nature hike style where we happen to find some berries when we are walking in the woods. The kids use these berries for mustikkamaito, or blueberries eaten with milk and a little sprinkle of sugar.

Mustikkamaito or blueberries eaten with milk and a sprinkle of sugar

Dishes courtesy of Millan Putiikki, Lahti. http://www.millanputiikki.fi/

The second type is when my husband picks for the freezer. In other words it is not a trip of leisure. The reason why we have divided the berry-picking task in this manner is quite simple. He is fast and I am slow.

I have two theories for why I am so slow. I did not grow up with the berry picking tradition and have been slowly learning during the fast few years. In general, I am a fairly efficient person but there is something about the quiet of the woods that puts me into a meditative state. Maybe it is because I am a Mom of a fairly large family and in constant demand and when there is an occassion that nobody is requiring my service I start to relax causing my fingers to slow their pace.

Cleaning the blueberries is actually a fast procedure. We have purchased an apparatus that is attached to the table with a clamp. It basically is a long Y shaped tube with a funnel on the top. The other branch of the Y shaped tube is attached to the hose of the vacuum cleaner. The berries are poured through the funnel and the vacuum cleaner sucks all of the loose little debris among the blueberries. The cleaned berries fall through into the pail and are ready to be used or frozen.

The recipe below is a take on Blueberry Delight dessert that I would have at church lunches as a kid. This cake is more of a cheesecake and uses fresh or frozen blueberries instead of a canned pie filling. Maybe it is a more old-fashioned version from a time before Cool Whip.

Blueberry cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake

Crust:
200 g/7 oz graham crackers or (about 12) digestive cookies crushed
50 g/1.8 oz melted butter
4 tbsp sugar

Mix the ingredients and pat firmly into a spring-form (20 cm/8 inches lined) with baking paper.

Cheesecake filling:

400g/14 oz cream cheese
4 eggs
2 dl/0.8 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract or sugar

Mix the filling with a whisk or electric mixer until smooth. Pour over the crust and bake at 175 C/350 F for 25 minutes. Turn down the temperature to 150 C/300 F and continue baking for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Blueberry topping

6 dl/2.5 c blueberries fresh or frozen
2 dl/0.8 c water
1 dl/0.4 c gelling sugar

Bring water to a boil. Mixing constantly add the gelling sugar. Take off heat as soon as the sugar mixture bubbles. Pour the berries on top of the cheesecake and spoon the sugar mixture evenly over the berries. Let set in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

Whip 2dl/0.8 cups heavy whipping cream. Garnish with softly whipped cream. Enjoy!

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