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Seasonal Pantry: U-pick blueberries in Sebastopol are ideal for coleslaw, ketchup

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On June 21, the second to last Friday of the month, Duckworth Family Farm in Sebastopol hosted its first U-Pick Blueberry day. The farm opened at 7 a.m., as it is best to pick blueberries before the heat of the day. They last longer and, overall, taste better.

The first customers arrived at 6:59 a.m. and by the time the farm closed at 2 p.m. about 160 people had come through. The next day was similar, with so many people that by the end of the day, all the ripe berries were gone. They couldn’t open on Sunday because they was nothing to pick. People picked more than 800 pounds of blueberries.

Blueberries are easy to pick. There are no thorns or stickers, the berries are not hidden among the leaves, and, when ripe, they practically jump into your hand. They are at the perfect height for toddlers but not so low that adults have trouble.

This first U-Pick weekend was announced only on Facebook and a local radio show. By any measure, it was an enormous success. People came from all over Sonoma County and from Marin County. Parents, grandparents and great grandparents arrived with toddlers in tow. It was hot, but with just enough shade and just enough breeze to keep things pleasant.

The farm, located at 2950 Canfield Road, is an ongoing work-in-progress and a charming step back in time. It is clearly a diverse working farm, not a manicured estate, not a gentlemanly indulgence. In addition to three varieties of blueberries, the Duckworths have chickens, horses, sheep, hay, ponds filled with crawfish from Blucher Creek, which flows through the property, tents that house volunteers from WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), a cookhouse, barns and buildings filled with looms. Plans are in the works for a sheep milk dairy. They even work with two ravens who have lived there since they purchased the farm more than 15 years ago. Every morning, Lorrie Duckworth puts out two eggs for the ravens, who, in turn, keep the neighbor hawks away from the chickens.

When blueberry season is over, Lorrie Duckworth teaches all about wool, from shearing and cleaning to carding, spinning and weaving. She hosts other classes in the cookhouse, and plans are always in the works for more activities. She is so full of energy, spirit and spunk that you might suspect she is twins, or even triplets. But there is just one of her, and her energy is an inspiration.

U-pick blueberries are $4.50 a pound. If you want to have them picked for you, the cost is $6 a pound. The farm is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though it is a good idea to check, especially on Sundays, to be certain they are not sold out. You’ll find the farm on Facebook and it can be reached by phone at 707-829-7999. This week only, they will also open on Thursday for the July 4 holiday.

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For a simple afternoon appetizer or a dessert on a hot night, try this tangy relish with feta cheese, mozzarella fresca, chévre or sheep milk ricotta.

Blueberry & Corn Relish with Feta Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups blueberries, quartered and chilled

1 ear of corn, shucked and grilled or boiled for 1 to 2 minutes

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar

— Kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cayenne

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

— Black pepper in a mill

8-12 ounces feta cheese or other cheese of choice

— Small basil sprigs, for garnish

— Crackers of choice

Put the blueberries into a medium bowl. Cut the corn from its cob and add it to the bowl, along with the shallot, garlic, ginger and vinegar. Season with salt. Add the cayenne, olive oil, basil and several turns of black pepper and toss together gently.

Cover and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and acid balance.

To serve, set the cheese on a serving plate and spoon the relish over and around it. Enjoy right away, with crackers on the side.

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I like to make this coleslaw with Legacy blueberries, which have a brighter, more floral flavor and are more acidic that other varieties.

Blueberry Coleslaw

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 medium green cabbage, shredded

1 small red onion, minced

½ cup fresh Italian parsley, minced

— Gratad zest of 1 orange

¾ cup best-quality mayonnaise

1/3 cup creme fraiche

1/3 cup blueberry vinegar or 2 tablespoons blueberry juice mixed with 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

2 cups fresh blueberries, preferably Legacy variety

Put the cabbage, onion, parsley and orange zest into a large bowl and toss together thoroughly. Set aside.

Put the mayonnaise, creme fraiche, vinegar or blueberry-lemon juice, orange juice, sugar, clove and cinnamon into a small bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, taste for salt, sugar and acid balance.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss thoroughly, add the blueberries and toss again. Cover and let rest at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.

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Ketchup was made with a variety of ingredients before tomatoes became the norm. Blueberries make a beautiful condiment that is ideal at summer barbecues, especially with lamb burgers, lamb sausage, duck burgers, and duck sausage.

Blueberry Ketchup

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds fresh blueberries, picked over for rocks and stems, washed and drained

2 cups brown sugar, plus more to taste

1 cup best-quality red wine vinegar, such as O Zinfandel

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

2 allspice berries

1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Put the berries into a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar and the vinegar and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the berries have softened, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Set a large strainer or colander over a deep bowl and tip the blueberries and all the juice into it. Stir gently to release as much of the liquid as possible.

Pour the juice back into the saucepan and add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice berries, peppercorns and salt. Set over medium heat and simmer until reduced by at least half.

Meanwhile, pass the blueberries through a food mill or press them through a potato ricer, using the smaller blade.

Use a small strainer to remove and discard the spices from the liquid. Stir in the blueberry purée and cook very gently, stirring frequently, until thickened. It will take about 15 minutes; be sure to stir from the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Taste, correct for salt and sugar, and remove from the heat.

Cool and store in a glass jar until ready to use; it will keep, refrigerated, for about 2 months.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Oil & Vinegar.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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