July 2018
Homeplace & Community

Blueberry Time is Here

Blueberries are plentiful this year and a very good source of those great anti-oxidants. 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 10-14 days. 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

Yield: 12 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 egg
1 cup sour cream*
1/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 400°. Grease 12 2½-inch muffins cups or line muffin tins with foil liners.

In a bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour to keep them from coming to the top.

In a second bowl, combine remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

In a third bowl, 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.

* 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 washed, unthawed blueberries lightly with flour before stirring into batters.

 

BLUEBERRY POUND CAKE

Yield: 12-16 servings
1 package butter-flavored cake mix 3 eggs
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups blueberries
½ cup vegetable oil

Heat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

In a bowl, combine cake mix, cream cheese, oil and eggs. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in berries.

Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

FREEZING BLUEBERRIES

You can freeze blueberries for long-term storage. Some people prefer to freeze berries without washing to avoid moisture breaking down their cell walls. Wash the frozen berries before using. Other people prefer to wash the berries before freezing them 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 sprinkled in pancakes or muffins.

 

LOW SUGAR BLUEBERRY JAM

Yield: 10 half-pint (8-ounce) jars
Hot water, for canning jars preparation
6-2/3 cups slightly crushed blueberries
1-2/3 cups water or unsweetened fruit juice
5 Tablespoons lemon juice, bottled
6 Tablespoons Ball Low or No-Sugar Pectin
½ teaspoon butter (not margarine), optional – to reduce foaming
1-2½ cups sugar, your choice of sweetness
Water, for water bath canner

Prepare canning jars by filling them with hot water. This will prevent them from breaking when hot jam is poured into them.

In a large saucepan, combine blueberries and water or fruit juice and lemon juice. Before heating and with a whisk, gradually stir in pectin. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, stirring constantly. Add sugar. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly and adding butter (if used). Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Pour water out of jars and fill with jam. Wipe rims. Place lid and screw band on. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Remove and place on towel away from drafts to allow to cool and seal overnight.

Note: This is a tried and true recipe using the converting chart. It is good for other berries and fruit, too.

Ball, freshpreserving.com

 

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.