I can hardly keep up with the produce as it comes into season these days – a good problem to have. Rhubarb started early and is going crazy. BC peaches are also early, and better than I can ever remember. And of course all the berries are here – blueberries from BC, local strawberries and even more local raspberries – in my sister’s back yard. I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner (+ snacks!) while I can, but berry season also reminds me of fall, because I pack away so many in the freezer to use in back-to-school blueberry muffins, smoothies, and other dishes that seem to extend summer. In late August there will be even more as the blackberries out on the west coast ripen and hang heavy on their bushes – I can’t resist pulling over and picking as many as I can while we’re out there on summer holiday.
Fortunately, most fruit is easy to freeze. Rhubarb needs only to be chopped and transferred to freezer bags, then placed flat in the freezer. More fragile berries – the raspberries and blackberries – are best frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transferred to containers or freezer bags. (This prevents them from getting juicy and freezing together in a big clump.) Blueberries can go straight into the freezer in their pint containers, but I find that the air holes in the sides encourages them to absorb freezer odours, and can make them shrivel and dry out. I dump them into a better, sturdier container that I know will keep them fresher longer. Don’t wash them first – just dump them in. (If you do wash them, dry them in a single layer on paper towels before freezing them so they don’t stick together.)
Phantom Rhubarb (or Berry) Muffins
This is a great all-purpose muffin you can make with any number of additions – if your rhubarb or berries are frozen, keep them that way – don’t thaw them before adding to the batter.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 cup chopped rhubarb, blueberries, or any other type of berry
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. butter. melted
Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until almost combined; add the rhubarb and stir just until blended.
Divide between 8-10 paper-lined muffin tins. In a small bowl, stir together the pecans, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and sprinkle a bit over each muffin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Makes 8-10 muffins.