Paula LOVES to cook a big country breakfast, and I love to eat it. An early morning a couple of weeks ago I was over at her home getting organized for a photo shoot scheduled the next day. Paula, still in her housecoat, had made grits and a chicken fried steak with the richest of homemade brown gravy. Flaky biscuits just out of the oven and the most delicious fresh blueberry preserves for slathering on the biscuits. We gossiped just a little, but there really wasn’t much talking because we all had our heads down eating…Paula, Michael, a designer friend Mitch, Brandon and myself. Okay, truth be told, Brandon was watching his figure and wasn’t really eating…we happily shared his portion. Of course I loved the creamy grits, chicken fried steak and gravy but it was the fresh blueberries with just a hint of lemony zing that made her preserves so amazing. This got me thinking about this wonderful little ball of blue goodness that we harvest each June, here in the South. Below are a few facts, tips, hopefully some inspiration and most importantly Paula’s Homemade Blueberry Lemon Preserves recipe. Try it on a just out of the oven flaky biscuit with a little Danish butter. I only wish you could have been in Paula’s kitchen for breakfast with us!
Did You Know:
Blueberries are part of the heath family, which includes cranberries, bilberries, azaleas, rhododendron and mountain laurel. Flavors range from tart to mildly sweet and are bursting with nutrients and antioxidants. Blueberries are a great source of Vitamin C, manganese, fiber and Vitamin E as well as being low in calories. Blueberries are native to North America? The fruit is very rarely found growing in Europe. The varieties grow from Canada to Florida on the Eastern seaboard as well as in the Pacific Northwest. Native Americans used blueberries a lot in their diet, but the berries were not consumed in large amounts by the colonists until the mid 19th century when sugar became more widely available. The first commercially grown berries became available in 1916.
When you are at the market or blueberry farm, choose the blueberries that are firm and have a uniform color with a white bloom. This next step for testing freshness is really important. Shake the container that the berries are in. Fresh berries will move freely. If they don’t, it’s usually an indication that they are soft and could be moldy. Use the same test when purchasing frozen berries. Shake the bag. If the berries move freely this is a sign that they have not thawed and been refrozen.
Remove any damaged berries before storing because those will spread mold. Store your ripe blueberries in a covered container and place it in the refrigerator. They will hold for just under a week. Don’t wash your blueberries until right before you are ready to eat them. Washing will remove the bloom and that is what protects the berries skin. Ripe berries can be frozen easily. Wash them first and remove any damaged berries. Allow to drain and spread them out on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Place in the freezer until berries are frozen then remove and put into individual zip lock bags. I like to freeze my berries in one cup measurements, which makes preparation more expeditious when I am ready to use them in a recipe.
Preparing Blueberries for use:
Fresh Blueberries are fragile. Wash them gently and gingerly pat dry JUST before use. If you are using frozen blueberries for anything other than cooking, thaw and allow them to drain before use. When using frozen blueberries for cooking, use unthawed berries for the biggest flavor punch. You will need to extend the cooking time when using frozen berries to accommodate for the excess moisture released.
Blueberries are so versatile; try a new twist on your favorite recipes by adding a cup of blueberries to the mix. Here are some ideas along with a special blueberry treat… A previously unpublished recipe for
Paula’s Homemade Blueberry Lemon Jam!
*Blueberry Compound Butter *Blueberry Cornbread
*Blueberry Scones *Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
*Blueberry Infused Iced Tea *Blueberry Banana Bread
*Blueberry Bread Pudding *Blueberry Shakes/Malts/Smoothies
Paula’s Homemade Blueberry Lemon Preserves
Yields 7 (8 oz.) Jars
5 cups blueberries
6 1/2 cups sugar
Zest of two lemons
Juice of two lemons
2 (3 ounce) envelops liquid fruit pectin (Ball Fruit Jell)
7 (8 oz.) Canning Jars with lids
Prepare jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions.
In a large saucepan over high heat add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir frequently while bringing to a rolling boil. Stir in pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Skim any foam if necessary and ladle into the hot prepared jars. Be sure to leave at least a 1/4” space at the top of the jar. Place the cap on the jars and process for another 15 minutes in a canner with boiling water.
Libbie Summers is a yacht chef turned stylist who specializes in innovative ways to present food. She serves as a Food and Prop Stylist for Paula Deen and Head Food Stylist for Paula's Best Dishes. Libbie lives in Savannah with her pulchritudinous husband, Josh. Her website lives at http://www.libbiesummers.com
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Join Paula at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show in Washington, DC. Tickets on sale now.
Join Paula, Bobby and Jamie for a book signing at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah from 10 am to 12 pm. Trolley service available in Johnson Square from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM. Only 350 tickets will be given out starting 1 hour before the book signing. No cameras permitted; a professional photographer will be on site to take your photo.