blueberry. A kind of whortleberry (Vaccinium Pennsylvanicum) common in America. — Webster, 1882
pudding. A species of food of a soft or moderately hard consistence, variously made, but often a compound of flour, or meal of maize, with milk and eggs. — Webster, 1882
Near the borders of Lake Champlain, on the western side, farmers cultivate blueberry bushes; they pile brush on the ground laid out for the berry field, set fire to the brush and burn it, and the next year the blueberry bushes spring up in abundance. This fact bears witness to the harmonies of nature, and give evidence to the fertility of our beautiful earth. -Frontier Palladium (Malone, New York), July 11, 1850.
There is an exodus of all the common people of this section, blueberrying. -Malone Palladium, August 7, 1879.
According to Farmer Boy (see Chapter 17, “Summer Time”), the Wilders headed out before dawn to go berrying in the mountains near Lake Chateaugay (about twenty miles southeast of the Wilder farm), picked berries until noon and picnicking time, then returned to their berrying. By early afternoon, they had filled bushel baskets and pails with blueberries and huckleberries, and then Father Wilder drove the twenty or so miles home. Did the family really travel up to forty miles in a day, plus spend hours picking fruit? It sure sounds like it!
It’s unknown where the Wilders went berrying, but they must have returned to the same spot year after year since they visited with friends there “year after year.” Wild blueberries and huckleberries drew hundreds and hundreds of Franklin County residents every July and August, and there are now local farmers who offer “all you can pick” berrying in season. Check online for locations if you’re visiting the Wilder Farm in the summer; just watch out for bears, no matter how lazy you think they ought to be that time of year.
Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum) are similar plants currently classified in the same plant genus, Vaccinium, which includes hundreds of different species, including the cranberry. Almanzo would have observed that ripe huckleberries were usually smaller than blueberries, and had a tart taste. Ripe berries could vary from red to purple, blue to black, but when picking, it was important to leave any berries that were white or green. Such berries aren’t ripe and won’t continue to ripen after picking, so they will be wasted. According to Artemas Ward’s The Grocer’s Encyclopedia (1911):
The huckleberry, blueberry, bilberry, and cranberry constitute the principal members of a large family of edible berries, botanically classed together. Cranberries are easily and naturally distinguished by their red color, but the titles of Huckleberry, Blueberry and Bilberry are variously and contradictorily employed in different localities. By New England custom, those of bluish color are popularly known as Blueberries; those black or nearly so, as Huckleberries. West and South of New England, the general tendency is to group all varieties under the common name of Huckleberry, in spite of the fact that the market supply is chiefly of blueberries. Botanically, blueberries and bilberries are now ascribed to the Vaccinium genus and huckleberries to Gaylussacia. Physically, blueberries and bilberries are generally sweeter, milder and larger than huckleberries, and the seeds, though more numerous, are so much smaller as to be scarcely noticeable in eating. They are also generally bluer than the Common Huckleberry (G. Resinosa), but the color distinction is not absolute because of the bluish tint of the Blue Huckleberry or Dangleberry (G. Frondosa) and the nearly black hue of a few kinds of Blueberries. The name “Whortleberry” is in the United States applied to the Huckleberry, and in Europe to the Bilberry.
The numerous varieties of huckleberries, blueberries and bilberries range in size from that of a currant to a small grape, and in color from light blue to black, and ripen from the first of June to the last of August, remaining in the market until about the middle of September. They are picked in enormous quantities fresh as an edible fruit and (both fresh and canned) for pies and puddings. In Southeast Maine, vast areas are covered with the bushes. Cultivation is at present resorted to in only a few parts, as the wild bushes generally supply enough to meet the demand, but it is probably that the future will see greater attention directed to the improvement of these berries and their more extensive production. As marketed, two or more varieties are often mixed together.
Blueberry Jam. Four quarts of blueberries and four quarts of sugar. Place sugar and berries in preserving kettle, let stand several hours, then boil slowly until thick. Put in jelly glasses. – Harriet S. Nelson, Fruits and their Cookery (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1921): 129.
Blueberry Jelly. General directions: Put soft blueberries in a saucepan, crush, and let heat slowly. When hot, drain in a bag, then press out juice or add water to pulp and make one or two extractions. Heat juice to boiling point, and boil for six to seven minutes. For each cup of juice, add one cup sugar made hot in the oven, and boil to jelly for one to two minutes. Pour hot jelly into jelly glasses which are made ready in a pan of hot water as the mixture will often jelly in the saucepan if there is a moment of delay in turning it into the glasses. – Janet McKenzie Hill, Canning, Preserving and Jelly Making (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1915): 110-111.
Steamed Blueberry Pudding. Mix and sift two cups flour, four teaspoons baking powder and one-half teaspoon salt, then work in two tablespoons butter, using tips of the fingers. Add one cup sweet milk and one cup blueberries rolled in flour, turn into a buttered mold, cover, and let steam one and one-half hours. Serve with the following sauce: Cream one-quarter cup butter and gradually while heating add one-half cup powdered sugar. Gradually add two tablespoons milk and one tablespoons rose water, sherry, or vanilla. Cook in double boiler until ingredients are perfectly blended and of a creamy consistency.
Blueberry Pudding. One quart of flour, three pints of blueberries, one pint of molasses, one teaspoonful of soda, one teaspoonful of salt. Steam three hours. Serve with sauce. – Mrs. Thomas Hawley, The Malone Cook Book, Compiled from Recipes contributed by Ladies of Malone and published by the Woman’s Aid Society of the First Congregational Church, Malone, New York. (Rutland, Vermont: The Tuttle Company, 1903): 99.
Blueberry Pudding. One cup of sugar, one-half small cup of butter, two eggs, one-half pint milk, one pint of blueberries, two teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar, and same of soda. Do not make a very stiff batter. – Vermont Journal, September 4, 1869, page 3.
Blueberry Cake. One cup of butter, two cups of sugar, four cups of flour, two cups of blueberries, one-half cup of milk, three eggs, one teaspoon cream of tartar, one-half teaspoon of soda. Roll the blueberries in the flour and put them in the last thing. – Mrs. W.H. King, The Malone Cook Book, Compiled from Recipes contributed by Ladies of Malone and published by the Woman’s Aid Society of the First Congregational Church, Malone, New York. (Rutland, Vermont: The Tuttle Company, 1903): 84.
Baked Blueberry Pudding. Mix one cup of sugar with a piece of butter the size of a large egg. Add one cup of sweet milk, with half a teaspoonful of soda in it. Add one coffee cup of ripe blueberries well sprinkled with flour. Bake in a round dish and eat with yellow pudding sauce. -Susan Anna Brown, The Book of Forty Puddings. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1882): 16.
In Barbara M. Walker’s The Little House Cookbook (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1979); see page 51, there is a recipe for a sauce to be served with blueberry pudding. This sauce is made of granulated sugar and water boiled together, to which butter and rose water are added, along with salt and nutmeg. The weak syrup and butter will never emulsify no matter how much mixing you do, and the resulting sauce will be nothing more than slightly sweet water with butter floating on top. Bleh. Instead, cream two cups of confectioner’s sugar (not granulated sugar) with a quarter cup of room temperature butter, slowly adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk, a pinch of salt, a half-teaspoon of vanilla, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Mix until smooth. Spoon sauce over individual servings of blueberry pudding. For a rose water flavored sauce, substitute rose water for the milk and omit the vanilla.
blueberry (FB 17); see also huckleberry
picking (FB 17)
pudding (FB 17)