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Hand-picked blueberries sweeten easy-to-make oatmeal muffins

Addie Broyles

I always seem to visit my hometown in Missouri in June.

One year, it was because my high school reunion was that month; other years, I just can’t wait that long after the last week of school to go visit my parents and grandmother, who live there. (My mom is a semi-retired middle school counselor who is still somewhat beholden to the school schedule, and my oldest is in elementary school here.)

It just so happens that June is blueberry season in Missouri.

For years, we always went to a pick-your-own blueberry farm right outside Aurora, where I grew up, but after that farm finally closed last year after decades in operation, we had to move to one town over to Monett, where George and Ann Marie Rausch run a very popular blueberry farm that opened for picking last week on land that has been in the family for four generations.

George planted the blueberry bushes 27 years ago, Ann Marie told us as she led us to the part of the patch where we’d be picking early last Friday morning, and we’d be harvesting off the bluejay bushes, one of seven varieties they grow. (Like many pick-your-own farms and farmstands, this is a family business. The Rausch boys are old enough now to help weigh berries and work as hosts and cashiers for the hundreds of customers who pick during the summer.)

My mom and grandmother take blueberry picking more seriously than most. They both like to eat blueberries in cereal and oatmeal, and each year, they try to pick enough berries to last the entire year.

Last week, we’d planned to go picking with the three of us adults and my two sons, ages 7 and 4, and earlier in the week, I’d heard them say that our trip would just be for fun and that they’d return the following week for a more serious attempt.

But with all those hands, even the little ones, we pulled more than 17 pounds of blueberries off the bushes in less than an hour. (Who knows how many pounds we ate while picking, which isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged.)

At $3.85 per pound, that’s $66 worth of berries, a quarter of which I brought back to Texas.

Yesterday, I made these Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins from a recipe that Ann Marie Rausch said was one of her favorite. By soaking the oats in milk (I used regular milk, not buttermilk, and they turned out fine), the texture of the oats isn’t as noticeable, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your preference. I deviated from the original recipe a little by mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately and then using a fork to combine them, but the ratio of ingredients makes for a pretty perfect muffin, no matter the order you assemble them.

Next up? Quick blueberry jam from Sherri Brooks Vinton’s new book, ” The Put ‘em Up! Preserving Answer Book,” the recipe for which I’ll post over the weekend.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. quick-cooking oats

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cup walnuts (optional)

1 cup flour

1 1/3 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line muffin tins with paper cups.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and oats. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until combined. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts, if using. Stir well. Add oatmeal mixture and then incorporate the flour. Fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about a dozen.

— Adapted from a recipe from Rausch’s Blueberry Farm in Monett, Mo.