When I was a young girl I went to a place called Blueberry Hill near Little Bras D’or on Cape Breton Island, and sat on an ant hill. A red ant hill. I carry the memory of being bitten a thousand times by angry little bugs in my head like it was yesterday. Forty three years later I still cringe at the humiliation of being stripped to my birthday suit in front of perfect strangers as my dad desperately tried to shake the tenacious little jerks loose.
When we returned to my grandmother’s house with my tear-stained cheeks, I was promptly dropped in a bath with baking soda to soothe the itch. I recall soaking in their tub and immediately feeling sweet relief. I can close my eyes and feel the cool August breeze that flowed through the upstairs rooms. I remember vividly how wonderful it felt to slip into fresh pyjamas before I made my way downstairs to my grandmother’s kitchen, the heart of her home.
With the blueberries we had managed to pick before what we shall now refer to as “the incident”, my grandmother had made Blueberry Grunt. Suddenly, the day had been worth it. So while this is probably just a recipe for you, it’s a piece of my childhood for me, which makes this dessert that much sweeter.
Since, I recently returned from an amazing trip to Cape Breton and was feeling nostalgic, I couldn’t help but pick up four pints of Nova Scotia blueberries at my local grocer. I knew I had my grandmother’s recipe for Blueberry Grunt somewhere in my recipe book at home but I had never had the desire to make it, until now.
I’ve modified it slightly to add in lemon zest and juice, and to swap out the lard she used for unsalted butter. Otherwise this recipe is ridiculously easy to make, and totally fool-proof. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, a Dutch Oven would work well for this too.
This is a great summer dessert to assemble for a crowd, but it would also make a fantastic dish for a brunch. Worth noting, leftover blueberries are fantastic warmed up and served over French toast or pancakes the next day.
Blueberry Grunt – A Traditional Cape Breton Recipe
- 4 pints fresh Nova Scotia blueberries washed and dried (this converts to approx six cups)
- 1 lemon zested, and juiced
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter cubed
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup cold milk
Preheat oven to 425F.
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, and fresh lemon juice.
Place blueberries in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly.
While blueberries are cooking, prepare dumpling batter.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, ensuring there are no lumps.
Work in cold butter using a pastry blender or fingers until flour resembles coarse meal.
Whisk egg and milk together and add to flour mixture, combining with a fork until all dry bits have been incorporated.
Carefully remove hot blueberries from oven, and using an ice cream scoop, drop batter on top of hot blueberries. Don't worry about making it look pretty.
Cover pan tightly with tinfoil and return to oven for 15 minutes.
Remove tinfoil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes more, until biscuits are lightly browned.
Remove from oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream.