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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grunt or Buckle It?

Blueberry Grunt – Pg. 28 – Old Lunenburg Dishes – Beulah Thurlow (Mrs. James)

Blueberry Buckle – Pg. 234 – Just Desserts - Edith B. Morash (Mrs. J.B.)

What do you do with YOUR blueberries? Today we will tackle the great debate – do you grunt it or buckle it?

What better time to test these two popular Dutch oven recipes than now - during Nova Scotia’s wild blueberry season. Jan’s mamma (aka Mamma Mia) graciously offered to pick some up at the Thursday morning Lunenburg Farmers’ Market. We chose to go with the small wild blueberries as opposed to the larger, plump cultivated berries, as overwhelmingly recommended by many local blueberry enthusiasts.

So Lunenburg legend goes…blueberry grunt is to be made on one of the first cool evenings in August. A Lunenburg original, this dish consists of dumplings that are steamed in the juice of the blueberries. It is widely debated - Is this a meal or a dessert? Perhaps it’s the dessert that eats like a meal. The sweet stewed blueberries suggest it’s a dessert, while the heavy dumplings fill you up like a meal. I guess that leaves us with a second debate – do you eat it with a fork or a spoon?!

There is NO question when it comes to blueberry buckle – with its simple white cake base, a layer of blueberries and its sweet streusel-like crumb topping – this recipe is a dessert! Often served with whipped cream, it is the perfect simple summer dessert. (Although if you get a buckle craving in the middle of Winter, frozen blueberries will work fine in this recipe).

Both these recipes were surprisingly simple to make - few ingredients and quick preparation time. For the most part, these recipes were easy to follow, with a few exceptions – par for the course when cooking from the Dutch Oven…

A few tips regarding the Grunt…this recipe begins by boiling your blueberries in water and sugar – the recipe notes – “until there is plenty of juice” – we found 5-10 minutes is sufficient. The dumpling (biscuit dough) instructions were a little vague and didn’t specify the amount of milk to use – we found that ¾ Cup was the right amount. As with any biscuit recipe it is important not to overwork the dough – just a helpful hint to anyone without a lot of biscuit making skills – the ingredients should be gently combined, and the dough should remain somewhat sticky. As this recipe is cooked on the stovetop, we chose to use
a cast iron dutch oven pot (medium size), but just about any type of cooking pot would do. The blueberries should be reduced to a simmer before adding the dumplings; once the dumplings are added, the pot should be covered “closely” (tight) – and left to simmer for 15 minutes – NO PEEKING! – lifting the lid may result in dumplings tough enough to bounce off the wall!

Blueberry Grunt

1 quart blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup milk

Boil berries, water and sugar in a saucepan unil there is plenty of juice (5-10 mins). Sift dry ingredients together, cut in 1 tbsp of butter with knife, then add milk until dough forms. Drop by tbsp into the bluberries, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Onto the buckle…the first question was – what type of baking dish to use. The recipe suggests an 8x8 pan – it does not specify the type (glass, metal). We opted to try two different types. A modern day 9” square spring-form pan and an old-school 50s style 7x9 Pyrex dish handed down to Jan from her great great aunt Gladdie – this pan may very well have seen its fair share of buckle action in its day. We also opted to line our baking pans with parchment paper – a modern day tip from our good friendMartha (don’t be a hater).
Although the recipe does not specify – like any cake batter recipe – your shortening and sugar should be creamed first, then mixed with the egg, followed by your dry ingredients alternated with your liquid (milk) – dry, wet, dry, wet. As far as the crumb topping goes…we found the pastry cutter worked great to cut the butter into the sugar/flour mixture to blend. The recipe also didn’t specify to use white sugar or brown sugar – so we tried both. We recommend brown - and believe this is likely what is intended. The recipe instructions say to bake “until the blueberries are done” – come on Edith, how do you know when a blueberry is done?? 45 minutes seems to be the appropriate time (@325 instead of 350 as suggested by Peter’s mamma). Pans – metal vs. Pyrex – we found the Pyrex pan was the best bet – perfectly baked, not overly brown, nice height on the cake layer. The 9” square metal pan was too large, so the cake layer was too thin and the cake was much more brown. Just a couple of personal modifications we made during a third run through of this recipe – we mixed it up Paula Deen style and swapped the shortening for butter and doubled the streusel crumb topping – oh yeah!

Blueberry Buckle


1 Pint(2 cups) blueberries

1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
pinch salt

Crumb Mixture:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 butter


Combine cake ingredients and spread in baking pan. Spread blueberries over batter. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 mins.

Overall these recipes were simple in execution. Both make great desserts and are the perfect recipes to take advantage of blueberry season. Although the Blueberry Grunt is a coveted traditional Lunenburg recipe – our sweet tooths naturally gravitate toward the blueberry buckle. This leaves us with the answer to this great debate – we Buckle it!


  1. I am 'grunting' from eating so much buckle!!! I look forward to seeing the 2 of you on the Food Channel in the near future. Awesome job!!!

  2. Hello Jan and Peter, came across your BB Buckle on The Food Network gallery and thought I'd stop by and say hello. Sounds like you have a very fun and delicious adventure ahead of you, looking forward to reading about the Dutch Oven challenge. (BTW my 13yr old son just LOL'd when he saw the title...um I had to explain it's not the Urban Dictionary definition of Dutch Oven ha ha.

    I highly recommend you visit the Forums on The Food Network, there is an ongoing thread titled "Food Bloggers." It would be a great place to introduce yourselves and your blog to fellow foodies and bloggers.

  3. Thanks Ava, We'll stop by the forum to say hello! Thanks for following, hope you enjoy the journey as much as we are :)

  4. I voted for Grunt since it's closer to the blueberry poutine that my Acadian grandmother made. Nice blog and concept. We've wanted to try something similar but instead opted to just go where the winds of whim took us. So far, homemade donair meat and sauce have been a HUGE hit. :D

  5. I voted grunt because it seemed like the correct choice. I'm liking your blog, trying to creat the worlds ultimate dish, come participate @ http://joemilli.wordpress.com/

  6. Made Blueberry Grunt for the first time! Remember it from my childhood days in Lunenburg. (Not something they have heard of in California!) Delicious!

  7. Hey Patricia - I hear you're living outside Bridgewater now - welcome "home"! Visit often, we'll have lots of Lunenburg recipes for you to try :) Glad to hear your buckle turned out so well. Good to hear from you.