The Slovak word for a bilberry is one of those funny words we like to teach foreigners when they’re curious about our language. Why? Because Slovak is ranked among the most difficult languages in the world, and if we wanted to assess your linguistic calibre, then čučoriedka would be one of the testing words.
Čučoriedky (tchou-tcho-ryiedki) or bilberries, as I prefer to call them, are quite different from blueberries – the blueish berries packaged in plastic that you find in supermarkets all year round. Čučoriedky grow wild in our mountains, and to pick them, you have to climb to higher altitudes. Their main growing season is in August, and because they perish quickly, čučoriedky are sold straight from the buckets at local street markets.
Unlike imported blueberries, our bilberries are smaller, much darker in colour, and more flavourful. We eat them raw, make them into jams, bottle and freeze them. They are delicious in cakes.
For this simple bilberry cake, you will need raw, canned, bottled or frozen bilberries. If they’re not available in your country or region, use store-bought blueberries instead. The recipe measurements below are for a 39x29cm (≈15x11in) baking sheet.
Quick-and-easy Bilberry Cake
- 2 cups pastry flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup oil
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 sachet baking powder (12 g in Slovakia)
- 300 g bilberries (raw, canned or frozen)
- castor sugar to drizzle
- Rinse the berries and let them drain on a sieve. Grease a baking sheet with oil or margarine and dust it with flour.
- Sieve the flour into a medium bowl. Add the sugar, oil, milk, eggs and baking powder. Mix together until smooth. Pour the batter in the baking sheet and level off with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the bilberries all over the top.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC and put the cake inside. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it turns golden brown on the surface.
- Let cool for 15 minutes, cut into squares and drizzle with castor sugar. Serve warm or cooled.
Whether you eat them raw, in cakes or spread as jam on your bread, our čučoriedky will leave dark stains on your fingers, lips and tongue. It is because of their high content of anthocyanins – natural pigments that are thought to have antioxidant properties. True or not, čučoriedky are highly valued in Slovakia, because they are also packed with vitamins and minerals.
Some Slovaks use bottled bilberries or bilberry jam to help cure diarrhoea and stomach disorders. We also believe čučoriedky have anti-inflammatory effects, so a few teaspoons of a bilberry compote or jam is often a home remedy for a sore throat or flu in the long Slovak winter.