Blueberries are such a delight. They taste great, are really good for you, and are one of the easiest fruits to preserve in order to eat all year long. Early July is blueberry season in southeast Indiana. To find out when blueberries are in season in your area check with your extension office or the local farmer’s market. Look for “U Pick” berry patches in your area. Blueberry plants are shrubs, not too tall, and easy to pick. If you can’t find any available from the farm or local market, it might be possible to ask your local grocery produce manager to order blueberries in 5 pound boxes. It might be a good thing to educate the produce buyers that people in your area are interested in purchasing in bulk.
Once you have them home there are so many ways to eat them. Over the Fourth of July weekend my family enjoyed homemade red raspberry and blueberry crepes, blueberry muffins, and blueberry pancakes. The berries will keep several days in your refrigerator but don’t wash them till you are ready to use because they will go bad quicker after being washed. Blueberries can be eaten fresh, frozen, baked into breads and cakes, made into syrup and jams, dried, and mixed into smoothies.
I prefer freezing blueberries rather than canning because they maintain the fresh taste and I can prepare them in a variety of ways. Berries can be canned but generally after they have been made into syrup, jam, vinegar or pie filling. If you have a dehydrator you could also dry the berries.
To freeze the blueberry, sort and remove bad berries and remove stems. Cover a baking sheet (must have sides) with a single layer of berries and place in your freezer until frozen. Put the frozen berries in freezer bags ( in amounts your family can use in a short time span) and vacuum seal using a Food Saver. ( Zip-lock freezer bags work too but vacuumed items keep much longer) Make sure to make a note of the fruit name and the date frozen on the bag using a sharpie pen, and always use the oldest products first when taking out of the freezer. That is all there is to it!
Now to share some recipes!
Blend 1 cup skim milk or soy milk, 6 oz vanilla yogurt, and 1 cup fresh blueberries plus a hand full of ice OR use frozen blueberries and no ice. Blend about 1 minute and serve. An added nutritional element to be added is 1 Tablespoon of cold-pressed flaxseed oil. It does not add any flavor but makes this shake a meal instead of a snack. The oil is a monosaturate and helps stave off hunger for longer periods of time.
Crepes (for berries of course!)
You could of course add a savory filling to the crepes, but they work wonderfully for sweet fillings.
1 1/2 cup 2% milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
8 tsp butter
In a small bowl, whisk milk and eggs. Combine the flour, sugar and salt; add to milk mixture and mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Melt 1 tsp butter in an 8-in nonstick skillet over medium heat. pour 2 Tblsp batter into center of skillet and tilt pan to coat the bottom. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer and remove to a cooling rack.
Repeat the process adding 1 tsp butter and 2 Tblsp to skillet until all batter is cooked. When cool, stack crepes with wax or parchment paper until used.
To assemble a crepe: Lay crepe out flat; Add a dollup of cool whip ( or the real thing if you desire) in the center. Add berries to taste. Sprinkle with sugar spiced with cinnamon and coriander. Roll and garnish with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Blueberry Syrup (makes about 3 pints)
2 quarts blueberries
6 cups water, divided
1 Tablespoon grated lemon peel
3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Wash berries; drain. Crush berries. Combine berries with 2 cups water and lemon peel in a medium saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes. Strain through damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Combine sugar and 4 cups of water in medium saucepan; boil to 230 degrees F. Add blueberry juice to sugar syrup and boil 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust 2 piece caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner. Note: syrup is thin compared to maple syrup. It can be thickened with cornstarch just before using. Don’t add before canning.
4 cups blueberries
4 cups white wine vinegar, divided
1 cup basil, loosely packed
zest of 1 lemon
Wash berries and drain. Combine berries and 1 cup white wine vinegar in a glass bowl. Add basil and lemon zest. Cover bowl with waxed paper or plastic wrap and secure. Let vinegar steep in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks, stirring every 2-3 days. Strain vinegar through several layers of cheesecloth. Heat vinegar to 180 degrees F. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust two piece caps and process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath canner. Note: 1/4 cup fresh blueberries may be added to vinegar before canning.
Blueberry Pie Filling
6 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups clear-gel
7 cups cold water
1/2 lemon juice
6 quarts fresh blueberries
Combine sugar and clear gel in large kettle over medium high heat. Add water. Cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Fold in berries; fill hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Adjust lids and process immediately in boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes.
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs well beaten
3/4 cup oil
2 T sugar
6 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups blueberries
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 cup sugar. Combine eggs, milk, and oil. Add all at once to flour mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are moist, but still lumpy. Fold in blueberries. Fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. Sprinkle with sugar (optional: cinnamon and coriander spice added to sugar). Bake in 400 degree F oven about 25 minutes until lightly brown.
Tip Using frozen blueberries for baking
Coat the frozen blueberries with flour before adding to the recipe. It will keep the berries from settling on the bottom and burning.
Now that you have several recipes and tips for freezing, Get out there and get some blueberries. Try your hand at preserving for eating during the off season. Take time to enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures.