I was woken up the other night by the sense that someone was looking at me. I raise my head and looked out the screen door to see what at first scared the living lights out of me: a large, tall man standing outside my bedroom door.
My immediate terror made me look harder, secure in the knowledge that I could see out and he couldn’t see in. I sucked my breath in in amazement and relief when I realized it was not a man at all, but a towering buck deer making his way along the path that leads from the front of the cabin to the back.*
Then I got mad. If he was walking from the front of the cabin that means he most likely had been down on the point. If he had been down on the point that means he had been, unless he was a complete fool, eating the wild blueberries that grow there. Tiny miracle fruits I think of as mine.
I’ve only found three ripe ones this summer – I ate one, I gave one to my son, and I gave one to my best friend from high school who drove through 95-degree heat without air conditioning in holiday traffic to come visit me (and all she got was a single blueberry!). Everyday I go down. Everyday the ones that looked like they’d be ripe that day are gone. Eaten by deer.
And then the deer has the unmitigated gall to wake me from a sound night’s sleep and scare the crap out of me?
I’m trying to keep a healthy perspective and not get too angry at the wildlife for eating, but it’s a trial. I mean, there is plenty of stuff in the woods deer like to eat, right? I only want the blueberries. Okay, okay, I want the raspberries too. But everything else – seriously everything else – the deer can have. I’d even be willing to put out non-woods food for them if I thought it would make a difference. Carrots? Greens? Hot fudge?
As I dream of enough wild blueberries to even bother balancing on a scoop of ice cream, I used cultivated ones (such a sad, lesser product!) to make this tart my lovely talented friend and neighbor made for me a year ago. Rather, she made a tart much like this, gave it to me, apologized for it not being perfect, and I thought to myself that while it had been left in the oven a tad too long that I didn’t mind that as much as many people might and that I must remember to recreate it because it was such a brilliant idea. I don’t know where she got the idea or recipe. I added a bit of ginger and put on more jam than that original, I believe, and the people loved it.
I made it at our family cabin for an appreciative group. I made only a single mistake. I forgot that there isn’t a food processor at the cabin. Not a single one. So the super-quick crust was a tad more involved that I had planned. The upside to this, of course, is that any aggression or frustration I might have felt that day got worked out on the crust, not my family and not the deer.
Fresh blueberry and jam tart
Fresh berries are layered onto a jam-topped graham cracker crust. Easy peasy. And crazy tasty. The ginger in the crust is optional, but terribly delicious.
12 whole graham crackers
3 – 4 tablespoons chopped crystallized or candied ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg white
1 jar (about 13 oz but don’t worry too much a bit this way or that) blueberry jam
2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat an oven to about 350. Put the graham crackers, ginger, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until completely crumbs. With processor going, pour in the butter and then the egg white. You should have a sandy mass that sort of wants to stick together most of the time.
Note: this can also be done using a heavy resealable plastic bag and a rolling pin. Or, if you find yourself without a rolling pin either (!) the bottom of a heavy pan, rolled around and down, will, eventually, do the trick to make the crackers even crumbs. You will need to mince the ginger before you add it and the butter and egg white are best mixed into the crumbs with your hands.
Push the mixture into a tart pan or, if, like me, there is no tart pan where you are, simply work it into a 1/4-inch thick shape (square, round, star – whatever works for you!) on a baking pan or cookie sheet.
Bake until the crust is set, about 15 minutes.
Spread tart with jam and return to oven to lightly set the jam a bit, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool so the jam is a bit more sticky. Top with fresh blueberries. You can be as fussy or unfussy as you like about this. As you can see above I decided to make it all very neat and put the blueberries, one by one, in crazy-pants rows. Halfway through even I got really bored with that and dumped the remaining berries on the second half willy-nilly.
Judge the difference for yourself. The dumped ones need to be moved into a single layer, which means some will have jam on the top or sides. If you can live with that, I highly recommend spending that 10 minutes you just saved having a drink before the guests arrive. Or reading a few pages. Or staring at the ceiling and listening to the quiet.
Let the tart cool and set a bit more before you serve it. You can keep it covered, at room temperature, all day (or at least I did that and the texture was great). Something creamy is divine – whipped cream, for example – but something creamy and frozen is even better. Yes, I’m talking ice cream. Frozen yogurt works too.
* My son would contradict that statement with his own view of things: there is no back and front to the cabin. There is garage side and lake side. Let it be duly noted.