With the summer finally here, we’re starting to enjoy some of the amazing benefits of living in the country. Namely; amazing neighbors and a sh*t ton of blueberries!
The New Kids on the Block
First- the neighbors.
We are flanked by some really awesome neighbors, it’s kind of insane how much we lucked out with them and how close we’ve become.
We all know that no matter what- we’re here to help each other out. Whether that’s with our gardens, pets, homes or just someone to stand with when things are rough. As I type this, G is next door helping our friends pave their driveway- and we know they’d do the same for us!
Now that the weather is beautiful, most weekends we’re at one another’s homes- having drinks on the patio and cracking jokes. While that has led to more than one rough Sunday morning- it’s well worth it to have such an awesome community.
In Brooklyn, I spent plenty of time hanging on stoops in the summer, but I never really knew my neighbors. Apartments turned over quickly, there were two older women that I was convinced were actual witches, a movie star, a weird cat lady (whom I would now probably be BFF’s with) but no one else really my age. Certainly, no one I was going to have a beer on the stoop with.
The block I grew up on is a far cry from the way it was when my grandparents bought our house, 50 years ago. Then- everyone knew each other. Everyone’s kids played and went to the same schools, and their parents hung out on stoops or vacationed together in Coney Island. And of course, as with everything in my family, food and drinks were right at the center of it all! It was something I always wanted to have as an adult.
Making a Good First Impression
(aka- bribing people with cookies)
When we moved out here, one of my top priorities was to get in good with the locals. Armed with boxes of holiday cookies, G and I set off and knocked on each person’s house and introduced ourselves. They all thought we were insane but sweet.
While we were all friendly enough, it took the nice weather to really bring us all together. I firmly believe that summers are made for long nights with a cold beer and fireflies- luckily everyone out here agrees. Most folks spend Saturday afternoons in their yards- and we all chat over garden fences or meet up for a patio drink after. After a long day of yard work and harvesting, it’s well earned!
Harvesting and Preserving Blueberries
Our blueberries started to peak at the end of June (we’re in Zone 6). Each weekend we’re spending between 2-3 hours harvesting- and we only have two ripe bushes! We have a third that’s a different variety that we expect will be ready around mid-July. My new favorite activity is hanging out in the middle of the bushes with my supervisors: Whinny the cat and our quack pack. They make themselves right at home under the bushes and keep me company, and maybe snack on some of the merchandise.
We’ve harvested about 40 lbs of blueberries so far. Shy of Veruca Salt, there is no one in the world that can eat that many blueberries. Luckily, we have an extra freezer- so we started to package and freeze our berries. I did learn a few helpful tips along the way:
- Do not WASH your berries beforehand, toss em in dirty. That way the water won’t expand and turn your berry to mush.
- Before packaging your berries, let them freeze for two hours on a baking pan in a single layer. This will ensure they hold their shape and again.. Don’t turn to mush.
- Decide how to best package up your blueberries so they’re fit for recipes you’ll use in the future, and you won’t have to go digging around in the bags. For example, we freeze ours in 2 cup and 5 cup batches, (2 for muffins and 5 for pies).
Introducing the Amwell Mule!
As soon as we started to pick the blueberries, I began to receive subtle hints about pies, muffins, and scones. Now I’m not one to throw shade at a blueberry pie. But it’s damn hot and I am not about to be sitting in my kitchen cooking all day when I could be outdoors with a cold drink. So with plenty of blueberries to spare and the inspiration of my neighbor who happens to be a bartender, I threw together what I’m calling the Amwell Mule; in honor of our neighborhood!
The simple syrup can be used in tons of other recipes- I actually used it to make a blueberry butter which was BOMB. I served these drinks up to our neighbors on a perfect summer night, in chilled copper mugs with fireflies and tiki torches blaring. Who wants muffins when you can have that?!
Super Technical Blueberry Simple Syrup
First! The Blueberry Syrup (makes a TON- you can make smaller batches, but I put mine into smaller jars to give away. Just keep the ratio 1:1:1)
It’s a really tricky recipe. You ready?
- 5 cups blueberries
- 5 cups sugar
- 5 cups water
- Juice of 2 limes
Throw it in a pot. Let it come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave it there until it’s the consistency you want. I left it there for about 45 minutes and it had pretty much all liquified. If you want- you can also press it through a strainer and keep the berries separate for other deliciousness- but I had a singular focus: mules.
Making the Mule
Now to assemble this heavenly potion:
- Ice first!
- Cover with a shot of vodka, (while I’d recommend finding a blueberry flavored vodka, please do not feel pressure to be as extra as I am. It’s exhausting)
- Add club soda, (I filled the glass ⅔ to the top
- Squeeze a lime wedge and drop it on top
- Drizzle about a tablespoon of your blueberry syrup on top
- Add a spring of fresh mint
And BOOM! The Amwell Mule! Please be sure to enjoy it (safely) with friends and neighbors- and tag me in any pics you take! You can always find me on IG at TheHotMessHomestead