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How to Make a Blueberry

July 2, 2015

This week at Indian Ladder Farms, they were expecting to begin blueberry picking season. That means you can go to the farm and start picking fresh berries from the bush. Or maybe you’ve got your own plants in the garden, which would mean the distance between you and fresh berries bursting with flavor from the sun and earth, is much much shorter.

I love blueberries. But we don’t have a blueberry bush. And while the farm isn’t too far to drive, it’s a bit out of the way.

Luckily, I just learned how to make your very own blueberries at home with ingredients you may already have around the house. No kidding.

Well, I may be kidding just a little bit.

Some years ago there was a piece of propaganda going around, asking consumers to take a long hard look at the blueberry products they had in their pantry. You know, things like cereal with dried blueberries in it, blueberry juice, blueberry flavored fruit chews, etcetera.

The idea was that, much like the blueberry donut at Dunkin’ Donuts, many of these products didn’t have a speck of blueberry in them.

I would have thought by now either the government would have laid the smackdown on these shenanigans, or consumers would have gotten savvy enough to drive a market correction. But apparently that hasn’t happened.

Yesterday I discovered this while looking at a box of DiBella Biscotti.

This is one fancy box. At the top it bills these as “traditional artisan style Italian cookies”. The intricate logo is filled with information that would lead a consumer to suspect these are the real deal incorporating phrases like “Italiano autentico” and “cinque generazioni”. The date 1863 is stamped on the box too.

I guess if you know some of the label trickery, some of it falls apart when reading the story of the brand on the back of the box. The emphasis added is mine, to point out the clues:

For over 100 years, the DiBella family RECIPES have been passed from generation to generation. Created in the late 1800s by DiBella family matriarch Sophia and her daughter Anna in their tiny brick and tile kitchen in Sicily, these RECIPES were brought to the New World in 1910 when Anna’s family immigrated to Rochester, New York.

Anna taught her children the joy of cooking, and daughter-in-law Josephine built on that heritage, REFINING the family’s favorite recipes over the decades and adding an extra dose of love for her grandchildren.

Josephine’s LEGACY lives on today in a host of timeless, authentic Italian dishes, warm breads, sweet delights, and delicious cookies. Now, we’re pleased to be able to share these FLAVORS with you. We hope you enjoy the Old World TASTES that are such an important part of our family history.

Well, that’s pretty sneaky stuff, but not nearly as sneaky as the flavor: blueberry lemon. It’s described on the front of the box as, “Rich dried blueberries enveloped within bright lemon flavors, this Italian indulgence is perfect for dunking or light snacking.”

Blueberry lemon is a favorite combination. And from the looks of it, these biscotti are full of “rich dried blueberries.” Score!

Now let’s look at the ingredients: unbleached flour, sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, sweetened dried cranberries, baking powder, lemon peel, lemon extract, and salt.

Where did the “rich dried blueberries” go? Well, they would appear to be sweetened dried cranberries. They are after all sweetened with grape juice and blueberry juice concentrate. Technically, concentrated blueberry juice has been “dried”.

But man, that’s misleading. I’m no lawyer, but this feels like fraud. The package never says “The flavor of rich dried blueberries” or any other language to suggest to the consumer that they are getting anything less than real summer fruit. And they’re not. Not at all.

Or maybe the definition of “blueberry” has changed when I wasn’t looking. Perhaps this is all part of the new Orwellian America where we can call things by any name we choose. When schoolyard bullies become “terrorists”, they can win a free government-paid trip to Cuba.

And I may send my kids out on the street selling cranberries masquerading as blueberries. They’ll make a fortune, and they’ll get their first taste of the entrepreneurial spirit. Bilking consumers is as American as Dunkin’ Donuts.

All kidding aside, let the buyer beware. And hopefully this serves as a reminder to read those ingredient labels. All the time. Every time. Because at least for now, that’s one place where the feds seem to hold the line.

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