Blueberries are plentiful this year and are a very good source of great antioxidants. Why not pick some to use in recipes and also to freeze for later use?
Blueberries are probably the easiest fruit to prepare and serve. There’s no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting. Just rinse, eat and enjoy! Blueberries are not as perishable as most other berries. For optimal storage, berries should be refrigerated, but not washed until needed. Once chilled, they will maintain their quality from 10 days to two weeks. Remember, both frozen and fresh berries should be rinsed and drained just before serving.
Did you know?
July is National Blueberry Month in the United States, but it is August in Canada.
Blueberry muffins are the most popular muffin in the United States.
A single bush can produce as many as 6,000 blueberries a year.
Only three fruits are native to North America: blueberries, cranberries and Concord grapes.
Source: U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Ready or Not – How Ripe?
Some fruits should be picked or bought when they are at the ideal stage for eating because they do not continue to ripen after picking. These include apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.
Other fruits continue to ripen after they are picked: apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums. Tomatoes also continue to ripen after picking.
To speed the ripening of fruits such as peaches, pears and plums, put them in a ripening bowl or in a loosely closed brown paper bag at room temperature. Plastic bags don’t work for ripening.
The Best Blueberry Muffins
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1¾ cups plus 1 Tablespoon flour, divided
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream*
1/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease twelve 2½-inch muffin cups or line muffin tins with foil liners.
Toss blueberries with the 1 tablespoon of flour to keep them from coming to the top. Combine the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Beat egg, sour cream and milk. Stir into flour mixture until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Stir in blueberries until evenly distributed. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake about 20 minutes until golden. Makes 12 muffins.
* Because sour cream is the only fat in this recipe, regular sour cream will provide more richness than light sour cream.
Baking Tip: For best results, dust unthawed blueberries lightly with flour before stirring into batter.
Blueberry Pound Cake
1 package butter-flavoured cake mix 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Combine cake mix, cream cheese, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in berries. Spoon into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Yields 12-16 servings.
Freezing the Blueberries
Freeze blueberries for long term storage. Some people prefer to freeze berries without washing to avoid moisture on the berries from breaking down the cell walls. Wash the frozen berries before using. Other people prefer to wash the berries before freezing so they are ready to use when taken out of the freezer. Be sure to dry them thoroughly between towels before freezing.
It is ideal to freeze berries on a tray before packing into bags or boxes. This allows you to easily remove the amount you want at one time. Frozen blueberries can be used later to make jams, syrup or in baking. Most of the berries will probably be used to top off cereal or sprinkle in pancakes or muffins.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at 205-410-3696 or your local county Extension office.