Blueberries in Canada
Wild blueberries are low in calories and high in nutrients (see also Wild Berries). They are packed with antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Canada, particularly Quebec and the Atlantic region, is the world’s largest producer of wild (or “lowbush”) blueberries. Blueberries grow especially well in Nova Scotia, particularly in Cumberland County, near New Brunswick, thanks to its acidic soil. The wild blueberry is Nova Scotia’s official provincial berry, and Oxford, Nova Scotia, is referred to as the wild blueberry capital of Canada. Not to be outdone, British Columbia is one of the largest regions in the world for cultivated — or “highbush” — blueberries (see also Cultivated Berries).
Blueberry Grunt History
The origins of the blueberry grunt are unclear. Some claim it was first made by early colonial settlers as an adaptation of British pudding using local ingredients, while others claim it originated as a form of Acadian “forage food.” It is most likely the result of both of those factors combined. Blueberries can be swapped for strawberries or rhubarb, or combined with Saskatoon berries, but blueberries are the most traditional and popular. They are also responsible for the name of the dish, which is said to come from the “grunting” sound the blueberries make while being cooked.
Blueberry grunt can also be called “slump” or “fungy.” According to the Ottawa Citizen, “fungy is a 16th-century word that mean ‘full of air holes.’ It’s a variation of ‘spongy,’ like a fungus. The dessert’s spongy appearance results when the berries bubble up to make holes in the pastry or biscuit topping.” In his book, Canadian Food Words: The Juicy Lore & Tasty Origins of Foods That Founded a Nation, Bill Casselman argues that the name grunt may “have been borrowed or brought up to Canada by Loyalists from New England.” Blueberry grunt is most common in Atlantic Canada. It is intended as a dessert but can also be enjoyed for breakfast.
Recipe and Directions
In a large saucepan or cast-iron skillet, heat 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries with 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. (If using fresh berries, add up to ½ cup of water to prevent the sugar from burning.) Stir well and cook over medium heat until bubbling. Then simmer for five minutes.
While the berries are simmering, make the tea biscuits. In a large bowl, whisk 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon sugar and a ½ teaspoon salt. (You can cut back on the sugar to reduce sweetness.) Use your hands to break a ½ cup of butter into pieces and add this to the flour. Cut the butter into the flour with a fork to make small crumbly pieces. Crack an egg into a ¾-cup measuring cup and top it off with milk. Mix it with a fork and add it to the flour. Blend with a fork until combined. Mix in any remaining dry bits by hand.
Using a ¼ cup, scoop the biscuit dough and arrange on top of the berries. (This will give you about eleven biscuit dumplings). Cover the pan tightly and simmer 15 minutes. It is important to keep the pan covered the entire time or the biscuit dumplings will not rise properly. Serve hot or warm, ideally with ice cream or whipped cream.