Wild Blueberry Corn Muffins with Meyer Lemon-Thyme Curd

Absolutely the best muffin I've ever cooked, or eaten, in my life! A honey sweetened meyer lemon and thyme curd is baked inside a olive oil and cornbread muffin flecked with nutrient rich wild blueberries.

Disclosure: By posting this recipe, I am entering a contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and am eligible to receive prizes associated with the contest.  I was not compensated for my time.  Thoughts and opinions are my own.  

Let me go ahead and apologize, cause I’m about to wear you out wild blueberry recipes this week.

This month’s sponsored contest for Recipe Redux is for wild blueberries, one of my absolute favorites!   Plus, the grand prize, a trip to Maine during the wild blueberry harvest, sounds incredible, so I want as many chances to win.  Just being honest here!

It’s funny, but I actually used to hate fresh blueberries when I was little.  I guess my parents didn’t buy blueberries when I was growing up, because I vividly remember the first time I tried them.  It was at a friend’s house and I was probably about eight or nine years old.  She was happily digging into a giant bowl of blueberries, a special treat she told me, and offered one for me to try.  I bit in, expecting it to taste as vibrant as it looked, only to find a bland, mealy, mush in my mouth.    

I didn’t try blueberries again until high school, when a friend enticed me with wild blueberries her parents brought back from a trip to Maine and the promise they were nothing like their conventionally grown counterparts.  Sidebar – parents, aren’t you glad my susceptibility to peer pressure was limited to experimenting with fruit?  This time, wild blueberries won my heart.  Their firm texture and burst of tart, blueberry flavor got me past my blueberry-phobia.  Wild blueberries will always have a special place in my heart.

Wild blueberries

aren’t just superior to conventional blueberries in intensity of flavor.  Nutritionally, wild blueberries have twice the antioxidants of cultivated blueberries, a nutrition powerhouse in their own right.  A native plant to North America, wild blueberries are never planted, but grow wild in the fields and barrens of Maine, eastern Canada and Quebec.  Growing in this harsh environment produces a smaller, but more nutritionally concentrated fruit.  The nutrients in plants aren’t just there for human benefit - antioxidants and phytochemicals help plants survive in hostile living conditions.  Plus, because nutrients tend to accumulate around the skin, their small size means a greater skin to pulp ratio.  On the other hand, cultivated blueberries (and other cultivated plants) are generally bred for size, sweeter flavor or sturdiness and durability in shipping, which can select against many of these powerful phytochemicals. 

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of wild plants,

here is a great article

.  

Other benefits:

- Most wild blueberries are sold frozen, right after harvest, which seals in nutrients rather than losing them in transport and sitting on the grocery store shelf. 

- More blueberries per cup, means more blueberries per bite in baked goods.

- Personally, I find conventional frozen blueberries have a gummy, chewy texture after baking, probably from their higher water content, while frozen wild blueberries seem to retain their texture almost exactly the same as fresh.

- Wild blueberries are grown in the area they were adapted to, making them a more sustainable option.

To celebrate blueberry week, with each recipe, we'll delve into the health benefits of a specific compound found in wild 

blueberries.  Let's start off with the biggie, anthocyanins, the phytochemical most associated with blueberries, as it's 

responsible for it's deep, purple color. 

Cancer Protection

Wild blueberries and other anthocyanin rich foods are

associated with a lower risk of cancer

, especially cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.  Lab studies have shown that anthocyanins may be the most powerful antioxidant, promote detoxification of cancer cells, reduce proliferation of cancer cells and induce apoptosis (or death) of these cells.  

Type 2 Diabetes

It seems anthocyanins may be protective against type 2 diabetes.  In the Nurses Health Study, regular intake of anthycyanin rich foods, especially blueberries, was

associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes

.  There are

multiple proposed mechanisms

, including a reduction in insulin resistance and decreased production of glucose by the liver.  

Cognitive Function

Blueberries are brain food!  Some studies have linked anthocyanins, in particular blueberries, to improved cognitive function. 

One study in particular

 found mice fed a diet supplemented with blueberries performed better in maze challenges and had more anthycyanins in areas of their brain devoted to memory and learning.

Heart Health

Anthocyanins may

protect against heart disease

.  They are powerfully anti-inflammatory, help decrease blood pressure and lower cholesterol.  

Vision

Anthocyanins may even help improve vision.  During WWII, soldiers ate bilberry jam (a type of berry rich in anthcyanins) to improve night vision.  They may have been onto something - further research has shown some beneficial changes to ocular mechanisms with anthocyanin supplementation. 

Wild Blueberry Corn Muffins with Meyer Lemon-Thyme Curd

 

Serves:

Makes 8 large muffins and 2 cups curd

I know this is a blueberry challenge, but actually, thyme was my inspiration for this recipe, as it pairs beautifully with blueberry and meyer lemons. Both meyer lemon and blueberries have the whole sweet tart thing going on, so I knew it would be a perfect combination. Feel free to substitute regular lemons if you can't find meyer lemons. I wouldn't substitute the honey and olive oil with a different sweetener or fat, as they both enhance the floral and herbaceous notes in these muffins. This recipes yields much more lemon curd than you'll need - either whip up another batch of muffins or spoon leftover curd on overnight oats. Because of the creamy center, these muffins require surgical precision and a little bit of patience to get them out of the pan in one piece, so use a cupcake liner if you don't trust yourself.

Ingredients

Meyer Lemon Curd

  • 4 large organic eggs plus 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons meyer lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons cold organic butter, cut into pieces

Muffins:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour (or more cornmeal for a gluten free version)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Zest from 1 meyer lemon
  • 2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice
  • 1 cup wild blueberries, fresh or frozen

Instructions

  1. The day before, make the lemon curd. Pour about 1 inch of water in the bottom of a small pot and bring to a simmer. In a heat proof bowl, whisk together the eggs and the egg yolks. Whisk in honey, lemon zest and juice, thyme and vanilla. Place over the pot and cook, whisking constantly for 10 minutes until thickened. Mine stayed thin until the end, then magically thickened in the last minute or so.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in butter and a pinch of salt, whisk until butter is melted and combined into curd. Top with a layer of plastic wrap directly over the curd. This keeps it from forming a weird, rubbery skin on top. Refrigerate 8 hours or until ready to use.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, honey, olive oil, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Whisk dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined. Stir in blueberries. Divide a little more than half the batter into 8 lined or well oiled muffin tins. Top with a scoop (about 2 tablespoons) of curd. Top with the remaining muffin batter. Bake about 25 minutes until the tops are lightly golden. It's a little difficult to tell if the muffins are cooked through, as the whole toothpick in the center trick won't work with the curd. You should be able to tell looking at it, but if you're unsure, these muffins are fairly forgiving if you overcook them slightly, as the curd keeps them moist.
  4. Let cool in the tin until almost room temperature. Carefully remove from the tin, running a butter knife along the sides if needed. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.