Blueberry 101

By Jeanne Gibbons

The summer fruit season marches on, from strawberries to the equally delicate blueberry.  Blueberries are so versatile. You could make a jam from them, add them fresh to salads, make heavenly blueberry muffins or reduce them down to a savory glaze for pork.  But when you pick up a couple flats of blueberries, it’s sometimes difficult to use them all before they become mushy.  That is where proper handling and freezing techniques come into play.

Here’s the scoop:

Blueberries should be firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems and should be deep purple-blue to blue-black.  They have a silvery coating on them, called the ‘bloom’; this is a natural waxy protective coating on the berry.   Check your blueberries.  They should be firm and not mushy, and have an attractive odor.  There shouldn’t be any leaking juice in the container; this may indicate bruised fruit.

When you get them home, refrigerate the berries immediately, but don’t let any moisture accumulate in the clamshells with the blueberries. Moisture is the enemy of these pretty fruit. Crack open the containers and let the berries dry out in your refrigerator if you see any condensation.

Wash them just before you plan to use them, because washing toughens the skin of the fruit.

Remove any mushy or moldy berries immediately so the rest of them don’t go bad.  Berries left on the counter at room temperature will spoil within a day, if kept dry in the fridge they will last about 10 days.

If you can’t eat them all in time, or you want to have blueberry muffins and desserts all year long, freezing is an easy option. The secret to successful freezing is having the berries totally dry and unwashed. Put your totally dry, unwashed berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet that has a rim (to keep the berries from rolling everywhere) and freeze them. Once they’re solid, you can store them in a freezer-safe plastic container or a ziplock bag, and simply pour out the amount you need for your recipe. Rinse them briefly before you use them, and they’re ready to add to your recipe!

If you are adding your berries to quick breads, like muffins or coffee cake, you may notice that your blueberries tend to float to the top of the bread. You can prevent this, and make a muffin with beautiful blue bits evenly spread throughout, by tossing your rinsed berries in a handful of flour before adding them to your recipe. Fold the coated berries gently into your batter, and the flour will lock them in place as they cook. No more blueberry glaze on a plain muffin! Simple, blueberry goodness. For lots of good recipes, go to http://www.blueberrycouncil.com/

Blueberries are a wonderful food to have on hand for cooking, and their simple preparation makes them an easy addition to your diet. They’re considered a ‘super-food’ for their superior antioxidants that prevent cellular damage to your body, and freezing doesn’t change or destroy this quality. Take advantage of this add-on to Bountiful Baskets and have delicious blueberries all year long!

 Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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