This year, Canada Post released a food-themed booklet of stamps called Sweet Canada. They feature images of five classic desserts from around the country: blueberry grunt, butter tarts, Saskatoon berry pie, tarte au sucre (sugar pie) and Nanaimo bars.
A reader, Anne, sent me a note, saying she thought it would be fun to publish a recipe for each dessert. I thought that was a sweet idea, and I’m starting to do that today with one for blueberry grunt.
The Canadian Encyclopedia (thecanadianencyclopedia.ca) says blueberry grunt is a dessert of tea biscuit dumplings cooked in blueberries, adding that it’s essentially a stovetop cobbler. Its name is said to come from the grunting, gurgling noises the dessert makes as it cooks.
Blueberry grunt is most common in Atlantic Canada, but who cooked up the first one in that region seems up for debate. Some suggest early colonial settlers did and that it was an adaptation of British pudding that incorporated local ingredients, such as wild blueberries. Others suggest Acadians did, or that both groups had a hand in its creation.
In Bill Casselman’s book Canadian Food Words, he has another story about blueberry grunt’s origins, saying that it appears to have been borrowed or brought up to Canada by Loyalists from New England.
No matter who made the first one, it must have been a hit, because it became widely popular in Atlantic Canada and still is. Like any dish that’s been made for eons, though, from recipe to recipe, there are variations on how blueberry grunt is made, with the differences often being in the volume of ingredients used.
But the technique for all is often the same. Place sugar-sweetened blueberries in a pan, with a bit of water. If they are fresh, simmer them a while, set on some dumplings made from biscuit dough, cover and steam the dessert until the biscuit dumplings are puffed and cooked.
The end result is a rustic-looking, comfort-food dessert you can serve in bowls with whipped cream or ice cream. In other words, yummy!
Note: I’ll have recipes for the other desserts featured on the Canada Post stamps over the next eight weeks. All are rich and sweet, so I thought it would be good to have a two-week break between each one before I tempted you to make them and indulge again. The tarte au sucre recipe will appear Aug. 14; butter tarts Aug. 28; Saskatoon berry pie Sept. 11 and the Nanaimo Bars, Sept. 25.
Warm, saucy blueberries topped and cooked with complementary biscuit dumplings. It’s a family-friendly dessert you can scoop into bowls and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: about 23 minutes
Makes: eight servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in small cubes
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk
1 large egg
4 cups fresh blueberries (see Note and Eric options)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
• whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to taste
• mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)
Place the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter and, with your fingers, two forks or a pastry cutter, work it into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed and the mixture crumbly. Put the milk and egg into a second, smaller bowl and beat well to combine. Set flour mixture and milk mixture aside until needed below.
Combine the blueberries, 3/4 cup sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or similar sized saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Now lower the heat to medium, or lower, if needed, to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer blueberries five minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the blueberries simmer, start making biscuit dumpling dough by adding the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork to roughly combine the two. Now get in there with your hands and knead any remaining dry flour mixture into the dough.
When blueberries have simmered five minutes, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out scant 1/4 cup amounts of the biscuit dumpling dough and set them on top of the blueberries, leaving a space in between each one. You should end up with 11 or 12 biscuit dumplings. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil, tenting it slightly in the middle. Cook the grunt on the stove 15 minutes, until the biscuit dumplings have puffed and cooked through.
When ready, remove pan from the heat and uncover the dessert. Serve the blueberry grunt hot or warm with dollop or scoop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Garnish each serving, if desired, with a mint sprig.
Note: 4 cups of blueberries equate to about 3 pints or 24 ounces.
Eric’s options: Frozen blueberries will also work in this recipe. If you use them, you won’t need to add the 1/2 cup water to them as they will release added moisture into the cooking vessel when they thaw and come to a simmer.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.