Growing up, I would spend the summers in the Catskill Mountains, where my mom’s family lived. One of the highlights would be piling into a beat-up pickup truck with my cousins, brother, and grandmother and going to the blueberry fields to pick blueberries. We picked them off the bushes and put them in empty Folgers coffee cans, our fingers stained purple. We would then return home and jump around why my grandma made blueberry cobbler to have with vanilla ice cream. I will always associate these blueberry trips with Independence Day, the week when we would usually go up to the mountains.
Apple Pie: The True American Dessert?
Years later, as the Fourth of July approaches, I can’t possibly imagine having apple pie on Independence Day. Maybe imagine apple pie to be the “most American” dessert, serving it on every American holiday, including Thanksgiving. This false idea we have of this “traditional” dessert is fueled by the tall tales of Johnny Appleseed and ideas that the English settlers came to America and stumbled upon orchards upon orchards of Apple trees. Actually, the only kind of apple native to America is the crabapple, a bite-sized apple that only animals would want to eat.
According to Nadia Arumugan, when the European settlers did come to America, they planted apple trees, but the trees did not immediately take off. That’s what happens when there are no honeybees around. The trees had to wait to flourish until bees were shipped to Virginia’s shores in the 17th century (Arumugan).
Enter the Blueberry
In contrast to apples, blueberries are actually native to America and were prized by Native Americans before the European colonists caught on. Blueberries were used to make dyes, soups, and jerky. Native Americans taught the colonists how to cultivate the berries, which were later used for their nutrition to feed troops in the American Civil War (Arumugan).
Today, the United States produces more blueberries than any other place in the world (Arumugan). The North American Blueberry Council reports that almost 90% of the world’s blueberries are cultivated in North America. July is National Blueberry Month. It seems like you can’t go into any cafe or bakery in the United States without seeing a blueberry muffin. Kids are introduced to blueberries at a young age with books like Robert McCloskey’s classic picture book, Blueberries for Sal.
Bow to the Blueberry
If you truly want to have an American dessert on the Fourth of July, celebrate the holiday by baking some blueberry cobbler, muffins, or buckle. A classic recipe is found in Taste of Home:
Prep: 20 min. Bake 30 min. Yield: 8 Servings
- 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed)
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Put in a 2-quart baking dish sprayed with cooking spray or shortening.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, lemon peel, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and remaining sugar. Combine in cut butter. Mix until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk just enough to be moistened. Drop by tablespoons onto blueberry mixture.
- Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
Spend your Independence Day or any other summer get-together with a truly American dessert. Show apple pie the door and celebrate this most American fruit by showcasing it around the table.
- “Forget Un-American Apple Pie, Native Blueberry Cobbler Is The Perfect 4th July Dessert”–Forbes.com
- “Blueberry”–North American Blueberry Council
- “Blueberry Cobbler Recipe”–Taste of Home