One of my favorite things about living in Alaska was the blueberries. Blueberry picking was like a liturgy for our family- every single year anticipating the trips to our favorite high places -secret berry patches I found in the hills as I scavenged the highways or begged favor from friends- worshiping God’s breathtaking handiwork as we picked, transported to a plane of peace and delight, never wanting to leave. During the few weeks of blueberry season we spent as many evenings and weekends possible picking berries before they were gone- usually in the company of good friends- or just soaking in some peace and quiet. It was an annual revival of the soul that helped me survive the winters. The only thing better than a bursting blueberry patch was catching a salmon run. I’m getting homesick just thinking about it!
I remember picking pre kids, then my first season picking six months pregnant. The next year we had a baby in tow (and I was pregnant again) and he was rather interested in those sweet and sour berries. So much so that his cloth diapers were stained purple! I quickly came up with some rules for the growing Leigh tribe. First year of life, you can eat out of Mom’s bucket, second year you are on your own, and after the third year you have to contribute to the family stash. The kids were much more interested in running around the hills and building teepees with dead tree limbs, but they had to pick a container before being set free. Most of the time I’d be handed a half filled container as they ran off, so I encouraged them by making blueberry milkshakes after picking- the size of their milkshake being equivalent to the fullness of their blueberry container. (It didn’t take long for me to realize that cleverness was key to this Mom gig.) Our whole family shares fond memories of our time in the arctic berry patches.
What do you do with six to ten gallons of blueberries?! For our crew it was lots of pancakes and jam- but there was also homemade ice cream, muffins, margaritas, and my kids’ favorite creation- pouring half and half over a bowl of frozen blueberries and having “ice cream” for breakfast. Somewhere in the search for blueberry recipes we fell upon this one and it became the eldest Leigh child’s special concoction. I have record that Josiah began baking this buckle at a tender age, as the notes he made on the recipe (along with splatters of batter and berry juice) have adorable, juvenile spelling- I smile every time I look at it. It instantly brings that bittersweet pain of missing my kids, along with thankfulness for all the sweet memories. We were blessed to have Josiah with us last Christmas, and his siblings forced him to make his buckle for Christmas morning.
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 large eggs
4 cups flour (whole wheat works great)
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cup milk
2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
2 cups blueberries
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup butter
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (opt)
Preheat oven to 350 and grease 9×13 pan
Cream 1 ½ cup sugar and ½ cup butter
Beat in eggs
Mix flour, baking powder and salt, add to creamed mixture
Stir in milk and extract
Fold in blueberries and pour into greased 9×13 pan
Cut cream cheese into small chunks and scatter and press into cake mixture
Mix all other topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over batter
Bake 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
I enjoyed reminiscing as I shared this special recipe with you, and I hope you also have some sort of blueberry patch happiness. If not, then it’s time for you to go exploring and enjoying God’s beautiful creation!