Seasonal Fruits: Blueberries

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Seasonal Fruits: Blueberries

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

South of the Mason Dixon line this time of year it’s no surprise to be driving through any small town and see a sign for fresh blueberries. Places like Bridgeton, North Carolina where The Nelson Family Blueberry Farm has been growing berries since 1939. At the Nelson’s farm, you can still pick your own berries for a dollar a pound! Beautiful plump North Carolina berries that are the richest shade of indigo. If you have a chance this June and July, pull your car over when you see a sign for fresh blueberries. Most likely, where you are going can wait…especially if you come bearing a bucket of fresh blueberries.

History and Nutrition Facts:
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.

Selecting:
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.

Storing:
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.

Preparation:
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.

Ideas for Use:
Blueberries are so versatile; try a new twist on your favorite recipes by adding a cup of blueberries to the mix.

*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 Favorite Blueberry Recipes:
Blueberry and Grilled Chicken Salad
Blueberry Muffins
Paula’s Homemade Blueberry Lemon Preserves
Blueberry Dumplings
Granite Steps Country Blueberry Coffee Cake

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Reader Comments:

hi Paula, thanks for the blueberry tips & recipes, I just happen to have bought some for my Mom recently but forgot to take them to her. They were on sale for $2.99 for a small container, I’d love to find them for $1.00; think $2 is the cheapest I’ve seen them down here. I bet some people use them in salads like they do strawberries but that is not my thing. I think adding to muffins, blended drinks, hey even mixed drinks would appeal to me. :D I didn’t know they are related to azaleas either.

By Lena on June 08, 2010

mix fresh clean blueberries with a small or medium jar of bluberry jam or preserves and spread over your favorite baked or no-bake cheescake i prefer no-bake its cool and creamy

By tracy geve on June 08, 2010

I do Blueberry Lemonade by liqidating a handful of blueberries in the blender with a cup of lemonade and then pouring the result in the pitcher of lemonade…Yummy…I have blueberry bushes so I only have to walk outside to get the freshest berries ever…Now one of my favorite things to do with blueberries is using them fresh to top waffles using the same method described above except I leave out the lemonade, pouring the results over the waffles and adding a handful of whole berries looks and tastes like heaven.

By Jane Carlton on June 07, 2010

Blueberry/Jalapeno Pepper Jelly! Basic Pepper Jelly Recipe; use emulsion blender on a pint of blueberries & crush those bad boys up & stir into the jelly. Mahvelous on grilled pork tenderloin. Or pour over cream cheese & spread on Ritz. Life is good; blueberries are a little bit of heaven on earth!

By Butterball on June 07, 2010

Hey Paula. I have some good recipes that I had handed down to me from my mawmaw and mom. A blueberry coffee cake, fruit pizza,and blueberry pineapple bread, and some blueberry sauce. I think they are wonderful to cook with and have something new and old to make. Love all your ideas and creations, I am a bonified fan!  Smiles!!! Let me know what you think or would like to try.

By derrenda burgess on June 07, 2010

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