kruizing with kikukat

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ohelo Berry Bars

Cripes!  I am pooped!  Friday was the last day of work for the 2013-14 school year.  The last day for teachers is always frantic. . .trying to get all the signatures to check out, packing up valuables from the room, saying goodbye/thank you to those who made the year pleasant.

The school year actually went by quickly for me.  I can't remember when I've had such an awesome year.  The students were basically good, and, for the most part, most of the adults behaved themselves most of the time.  Before the school year ended, I made lemon bars for the people who went the extra mile for me and D1.  It took me nearly 3 hours to make and another 2 hours to package them!  I will not be making lemon bars for a while.  Now that I managed to get HQ in another content area, I need to start working on domestic things, i.e., another "go-to" dessert.  It's rather telling when one of the bosses calls from the supermarket on a weekend for recipe/instruction/tips on making lemon bars. . .I need to shed the "one-trick pony" moniker.  I can add it to the summer vacation "to do" list. 

Now that vacation is officially underway, between all the chaffeuring duties, I should have some time to do things I have been putting off or didn't get to last summer (sponge drops).  High (after I do the requisite house cleaning) on my list is picking ohelo berries.  Ohelo berries make terrific desserts and preserves.  What???  You've never heard of ohelo berries???  You must be kidding me!

Ohelo berries are pretty special, and if you grew up in East Hawaii, you likely have some kind of ohelo berry memory.  When I was growing up, I remember going to the Volcano Golf & Country Club with my dad.  While he worked on his handicap, I worked on checking out the ohelo berry bushes on the outskirts of the fairways.  I can remember going with my parents to pick ohelo berries for jam (not at the golf course!).

In my senior year of high school, my boyfriend took me to the now-closed Volcano House for prom dinner (there was no dinner attached to prom in those days).  I had ohelo berry pie for dessert and couldn't wait to tell everyone about it.  I don't remember the pie being extremely tasty (I remember it being very runny), but to NOT have ordered it would have been foolish and would not have afforded me the bragging rights of having ohelo. 

Over twenty years had passed since I went ohelo berry picking.  I think the last time I had gone was to pick the berries for jam.  I know I was still in elementary school at that time.   But I was shocked when The Help told me he had NEVER gone ohelo berry picking.  How can?  He grew up here!  Last year, we went hiking on the Kilauea Iki trail and had come across ohelo berry bushes scattered about.  The sight of them reminded me of the fun I had picking ohelo berries as a little kid.  I told The Help about my ohelo berry adventures, and he said he never went berry picking.  #amazing #shelteredprivateschoolkid So in an effort to educate him about how the other half lives, I took him ohelo berry picking off the Saddle (well, how could I not. . .he has a 4-wheel drive vehicle).

In an hour, we managed to pick nearly a quart of berries.  I was too tired to pick any more, and I had to use the bathroom.  I really wanted to make a proper topping for a cream cheese pie (wanted to correct what my former coworker made. . .this story will be shared in a future post), but refrigerator real estate helped me decide that I needed to make something which did not require refrigeration. 

At this very moment, my refrigerator is stuffed.  I just bought the gigantic tray of eggs from Costco, so if I don't use most of it (tea eggs, potato salad, Canlis salad, egg salad sandwiches, salty eggs) by the time I go berry picking, I will make these bars (instead of the cream cheese variety).  There really is no way to lose when you make a dessert with ohelo berries.

Unfortunately, the berry picking will need to wait at least another day.  Wouldn't you know. . .Mother Nature is not being cooperative.  The first day of summer vacation has turned out to be a wet, cloudy, cool day.  It is, in fact, so cool that The Help just put on his wool beanie!

click on recipe title for printable recipe

     1 c butter
     3 c flour
     2 1/4 c sugar, divided
     3-4 c ohelo berries
     1 tbsp cornstarch
     3 tbsp flour
     3 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine butter, flour, and 3/4 c sugar.  Press 2/3 of mixture into a 9 x 13" pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Reserve remainder for topping.  While crust is baking, combine berries and remaining 1 1/2 c sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Combine cornstarch, flour, and water.  When berries start releasing liquid, add some liquid to cornstarch mixture.  When berries have been boiling for 8 minutes, add cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes longer.  Spread on baked crust, sprinkle reserved topping evenly over fruit.  Bake for an additional hour.  Cool completely before cutting into bars.

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