Back at the end of June we went out to pick the last of the juneberries– there were masses of them, dark purple and heavy on the tree, so we filled our bucket and decided to freeze them for future use. After washing them and picking out the stems, I spread them in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and froze them overnight. Then it was time to decide what to do with them!
We decided on muffins, figuring that we could treat the juneberries much like blueberries, and went with the Cook’s Illustrated “Best Blueberry Muffins” recipe, which involves a combination of fresh berries and berry compote. Since we already had a stash of juneberry jam we used that instead of the compote. You can use blueberries instead!
Remember how I used half a box of vanilla cake mix to make a small batch of cupcake sliders? Well, since I had the other half on hand, I went looking for a recipe to use it in– it was just kismet that we also had several jars of our Juneberry Jam in the refrigerator, which inspired me to make jam-oatmeal bars!
This recipe couldn’t be easier, and it’s very kid-friendly since there’s no special equipment needed! My daughter and I had it mixed up and in the pan in five minutes flat, and they turned out fine– a bit sweeter than I generally like due to the sugar in the cake mix, but the kids liked them. Definitely something that’s easy to whip up on short notice from pantry staples– you can double it to use up a whole box of cake mix and make a 9×13″ pan of bars!
A few years back while at the school playground, my daughter ran up to me and asked if she could eat some “juneberries,” which she had found growing on trees planted around the play equipment. Wary at first (but figuring that it was extremely unlikely the school would’ve planted poisonous berries on their playground), I checked online and determined that the berries were edible, so she was allowed to try them. I even tried one myself, and discovered that they tasted something like a cross between a blueberry and a cranberry– sweet but with a tang. They were pretty good!
Since then, we’ve noticed juneberry bushes all over our neighborhood parks, and while the berries are only ripe for a very short period (in June, of course), they’re abundant as long as you can get to them before the birds do!
This June we decided to finally make a serious effort to harvest some, rather than just picking them here and there, so one afternoon we set out with a plastic Halloween bucket and managed to collect just over 2 pounds of berries. It didn’t look like quite enough to make a pie, so we decided to make jam.