September 9, 2007

Upkweman , Blueberry recipes and storytelling

Today I chose to write about the Upkweman', which is the Blueberry. I wish I started this blog a month ago or sooner but you know its better later than never. The good news is that the market is still rich with fresh blueberries which keep for a week when properly refrigerated. Do not wash until ready to use or they will spoil more quickly, frozen berries are widely available and keep for up to two years.

It is known the world over that the Blueberry is a popular Native American Indians favorite and is legendarily used in many of our own Mi'kmaw traditions. It’s true the blueberry does indeed have a lot of great health benefits. It is full of antioxidants which are great for the immune system, improving vision, heart, lowering cholesterol, fighting free radical damage which is why some call it one of the world’s super foods. Some other benefits include, preventing cancer, preventing urinary tract infections and protecting the brain during aging and improving motor skills. It is often used in several recipes, jams, pies, cereals, desserts, juices, one of my favorites are blueberry jelly and blueberry topped cheesecake. I am still hoping to preserve some blueberry or blackberry Jelly this year. I love homemade preserves.

Did you know that 90% of the World’s supplies of blueberries are grown right here in North America? In our culture is it also used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes as well and utilized as an effective natural dye in our arts and crafts most often on our Splint Ash Baskets, Quill Baskets, and Jewelry and so on. The blueberry can also be found in ancient Mi’kmaq legends, sustaining our people long ago and continues to do so in this day.

In fact a very long Mi’kmaq tradition that has survived for time immemorial right here on Turtle Island, in Indian country this is how we refer to the land known as North America. This long living tradition is the annual blueberry harvest in Maine in which thousands of Mi’kmaq (most of us in fact) have some how been a part of the annual harvest at some point in all our lives. Although its been over a decade since I last picked any blueberries in Maine but my point is we have always been a migrating tribe and continue to be. Each August, it is common to see entire families or carloads of workers get prepared for 1-3 weeks of back laboring work to rake loads and loads of blueberries, travel to the state of Maine, USA so the world can continue to enjoy the delicious taste of wild blueberries. For some that make the journey to Maine, it’s the only work that will be available to them until the next harvesting season. For many though, it’s a matter of keeping tradition alive and gathering with both new and old friends and families, times for work, creating long and lasting friends and play.

“Work is pretty well guaranteed for any Mi’kmaq that can make the trip even though much of the work available has been replaced by technology and machinery, the numbers still range between 800- 1000 Mi’kmaq workers per year. The harvest also includes several Mexicans and youths. But thanks to the Passmaquody Indians, who bought out the Northeast Blueberry Company, the tradition is still alive & will continue on for generations.” they have promised the Mi' kmaq that “as long as they continue to come work for the season, Northeast Blueberry Company will continue to harvest their blueberries by hand.”

In the last few years I have been reading alot of news about the annual blueberry harvest in Maine. This year the AP ran a story on it and includes some recipes from a mi'kmaw woman from N.B.

I have copied and Pasted the article including the recipes. I know it's sort of cheating but I wanted to preserve this article before the link goes dead such as many of my bookmarks in the past.


Recipes for the blueberry harvest

Indian bread is the tortilla of American Indians of the Northeast. The dense, chewy bread tastes like a cross between a dumpling and a muffin and is eaten with everything. It is especially good dunked in molasses or accompanying baked beans.

This recipe was provided by Margaret Ann Milliea, a 52-year-old Micmac from Elsipogtog, New Brunswick, who travels every year to Maine to participate in the annual blueberry harvest.

At the end of the harvest, Sara Simon, another Micmac and wife of one of the crew leaders for Northeastern Blueberry Company, bakes a blueberry cake for the drivers of the trucks who deliver the berries to the processors. The drivers often work through the night trying to clear the fields of filled blueberry bins before the harvesters resume their work at dawn.

Indian Bread

(Start to finish 45 minutes)

Vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Liberally oil a 9x9-inch baking pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Add the water and mix well. The dough should resemble a very thick pancake batter. Transfer the dough to the baking dish and spread evenly.

Bake 30 minutes, or until the bread is firm. Increase heat to 450 F and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Served warm or cooled.

Makes 9 servings.

Blueberry Cake

(Start to finish 1 hour)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup margarine

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 cup blueberries, lightly dusted with flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a 9x12-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the sugar and margarine. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and mix well. Add the flour and milk mixture to the sugar and butter and mix by hand. Fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Tap lightly on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 servings.

Warm Blueberry Brie

(Start to finish 40 minutes)

2/3 cup fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons sugar

10 sheets phyllo dough

8-ounce wheel of Brie

Olive or canola oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a small bowl, combine the blueberries, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar. Toss to combine and coat evenly. Set aside.

Arrange the phyllo sheets in a stack on a baking sheet. Place the wheel of Brie in the center. Carefully spoon the blueberry mixture over the cheese, mounding it on top.

Fold the edges of the top sheet of phyllo dough up and over the cheese and blueberries, closing it loosely at the top. Spray it lightly with cooking spray, then repeat with remaining sheets.

Bake the Brie for 25 minutes, or until phyllo is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Now here I found a recipe for Blueberry Peach Crisp from the Canadian Diabetes Associates website under the aboriginal section titled- First Nations Healthy choices recipes series.

Blueberry Peach Crisp

4 medium peaches, peeled & sliced
375 ml (1½ cups) blueberries or Saskatoon berries, fresh or frozen
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
30 ml (2 tbsp) flour or cornstarch
5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon

125 ml (½ cup) oatmeal
75 ml ( 1/3 cup) flour
2.5 ml (½ tsp) cinnamon
60 ml (¼ cup) margarine, non-hydrogenated
30 ml (2 tbsp) brown sugar
75 ml ( 1/3 cup) low-calorie sweetener with sucralose e.g. Splenda®


In large bowl, combine peaches, blueberries, and lemon juice.

In a separate bowl, combine flour (or cornstarch) and cinnamon. Mix into peach and blueberry mixture. Pour into 2 L (8 inch) square baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, blend together topping ingredients until crumbly. Spoon over filling.

Bake at 190° C (375° F) for 30 minutes or until bubbling.

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