We all have those homemade desserts that bring you back to home. They make you feel like a kid again. Maybe you get it every year on your birthday or when you got good grades in school. It’s hard to beat the taste of something so familiar, that even the first bite ignites vivid memories of grandma plating you up some blueberry deliciousness and vanilla ice cream after you finished crying from losing your first tooth, or the time your mom requested it for her birthday and you helped yourself to thirds, all the way to the time you shared it with friends in your college apartment. For me these recipes are a part of our story and are worth documenting.
My grandmother, Sylvia Butcher, a true Spenardian and Alaskan in her own right has been living in Alaska since the early 1960s. She met my grandfather, who grew up in Anchorage after his parents homesteaded here in 1943, in California and started a life together in the city of Anchorage. One of my grandmothers favorite Alaskan pastimes is blueberry picking. She knows all the spots, from the shores of Seward to the mountainsides of Broad Pass. Of course she would never permit to say where her favorite spot is, as that’s a heavily guarded family secret. She claims that the peninsula is the way to go. She notes that Girdwood blueberries are wormy and that Seward and Whittier are good places to explore. Claiming that coastal blueberries are better in taste and easier to pick than their alpine cousins.
Don’t even think about buying blueberries for this recipe. Grandma scoffs at the mere thought of store bought blueberries, lacking in taste and authenticity.
“They have to be Alaskan blueberries, not store bought. There’s no comparison,” Butcher said.
Grandma pulls out of a bag of frozen blueberries she’s been letting thaw, she holds it in the air and examines it, as if she was checking if a nugget of gold was actually just pyrite. The bag, with the date “8/15” written in sharpie on the side, is gently poured out into the baking dish. As I begin to spread the blueberries evenly in the dish grandma tells me about picking those berries with my mom last summer while they were in Seward.
“We picked them until we couldn’t pick anymore, brought them back to the cabin, and went out and did it all again the next day,” Butcher said.
The recipe for blueberry crumble was given to my grandmother in a cookbook published by the women’s club of Anchorage in the late ’50s. My grandma received the cookbook from my great-grandmother, her mother-in-law, as a wedding gift. My great-grandmother was part of the women’s club and had her own recipes published in the book as well. My grandma tried the “blueberry crunch” recipe as it’s called in the recipe book, and has been in love with it ever since.
“Some of the recipes in this book I’ve changed, but not this one. This one is perfect,” Butcher said.
The recipe is relatively simple, despite the delicious and crowd pleasing results it receives. Make sure to let the dessert completely cool before serving, as it’s too runny and messy if served right after it’s taken out of the oven. The perfect way to serve it, the way it’s been served to me my entire life, according to grandma is to “warm it up and serve it with vanilla ice cream.”
4 cups of blueberries (“they have to be Alaskan” said Grandma Sylvia)
1 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of butter (melted)
1 and a half cups of flour
1 cup of oatmeal
1. In a baking dish, pour in the blueberries. Stir in the sugar and flour with a spatula until the blueberries are covered in the sugar and flour. Spread evenly across the bottom of the baking dish.
2. In a separate bowl, add the melted butter, the brown sugar, the flour and oatmeal. Mix until evenly distributed. Once they are mixed well, spread across the top of the blueberry mixture with a spatula.
3. Place in the oven, set for 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Let the dessert cool completely. Serve warm and with vanilla ice cream.
Tags: alaska, blueberry, Broad Pass, Girdwood, Grandma Sylvia, seward, Sylvia Butcher