Way up in Northern Minnesota, right on the border of Ontario, there is a cabin. There’s no electricity or water, just a cabin and an outhouse, built back when land could still be purchased inside of Voyageurs National Park. It’s owned by my girlfriend and her family, and it’s a summer tradition of theirs to take a week each summer and be together. This year I got to go with.
I was looking forward to spending some time relaxing and being off of the grid, but of course I get excited to go to a new patch of land during the growing season. The land is technically taiga, (sub-arctic coniferous forest) and a world of difference from the mostly deciduous land around the Twin Cities where I live.
It’s also very rocky, there isn’t a lot of fertile looking land. That doesn’t mean that nothing grows up there, just the opposite, but it makes for an interesting foray if you’re used to hunting in a different area.
We’re smack dab in the middle of chanterelle season, so I knew I might see some up there in the pine, and I did, but nothing to really write home about. There was enough to garnish a couple slices of beef one evening though.
What there was a lot of was berries. Blueberries, dew berries, raspberries, red currants. The blueberries were the ones that were ever present, and what we spent a whole day hunting for on a little rock they call “blueberry island”. With the birds, bears, and other creatures there’s plenty of berry competition, so it took some work, but they were there.
The provisions at the cabin were, provisions you might find at a cabin, but we did have a nice surplus of bacon.
I made sure to save all the bacon fat for something, which turned out to be a cake with our wild blueberries we had for breakfast one morning. Here’s the recipe.
Wild Blueberry-Bacon Fat Cornbread
- 4 cups fine corn flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- 2 cups rendered bacon fat chilled
- 1.5 cups wild blueberries raspberries, or whatever else you're picking
- 1/4 cup maple syrup honey or sugar
- 3 farm eggs or regular large eggs
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary thyme, or another herb of your choice. (optional)
- Room temperature unsalted butter for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325. Liberally grease a cast iron skillet (A paper towel used to wipe out the jar of bacon fat worked great for me). In a bowl, mix the cornmeal and the bacon fat with a fork until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the maple syrup until pale yellow and doubled in volume, about 5-10 minutes. Fold the egg mixture into the cornmeal, then fold in the rosemary, taste the mixture for seasoning, and adjust if needed.
- Gently fold in the berries, then Pour the mixture into the greased pan, smooth out the top, and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. If the cake gets browned before a cake tester comes out clean in the middle, turn off the oven and let it sit in there to finish cooking with the residual heat.