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Beautiful Blueberries

Beautiful Blueberries

These pretty berries add tart-sweet flavor to any number of dishes.

By Karen Berman

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Gorgeous silver-blue on the outside and purple, juicy and sweet-tart on the inside, blueberries are native to North America but now are grown throughout the world. In England, they’re called bilberries, and in Scotland, they’re blaeberries. They’re related to huckleberries and cranberries, and are high in antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and stroke and high in potassium, as well.

Highbush blueberries are the cultivated variety, while lowbush are wild and produce a smaller berry. Many blueberry lovers treasure the tiny lowbush berries for their intense flavor. These are harvested only in a few regions of the country, with Maine being best known for their wild blueberries.

Blueberry Treats

Blueberries add extra flavor and nutrition to Sunday morning’s pancakes or freshly baked muffins and quick breads. Add them to smoothies, toss them over a bowl of granola, or enjoy them with yogurt or in homemade ice cream. Bake them into juicy cobblers and pies or cook them into jams, jellies and preserves. Simmer them slowly with spices for a blueberry chutney. Of course, there’s nothing like plain berries with just a little cream and sugar.

Blueberry Baked Goods

Fresh blueberries add a bright note to baking, although they turn batter blue or green if used as is. Mixing or folding them into the batter, even gently, can also cause their juice to leak. Of course, you may not care about the color of the batter but care only about the delicious treat in store!

If you do care, here is the remedy for tinted batter: toss the berries in flour, just enough to coat lightly. Fill the pan or muffin tins with half the amount of batter called for in the recipe, add the berries, and top with the rest of the batter. They’ll redistribute during baking with little or no leakage.

Selecting Blueberries

So many varieties of blueberries have been bred that they have a long season; different strains produce early, midseason and late berries. You can look for them as early as March, but they’re best from June through August. Make sure they are dry, with no soft spots or mold, and no juice leaking on the bottom of the package. Choose round, plump, smooth berries with a nice midnight blue color with a frosty, silvery “bloom.” Once picked, they won’t ripen, so avoid green or red blueberries.

Handling Blueberries

These hardy little berries will last for a week to 10 days, covered, in the refrigerator. Don’t wash them until just before you use them; rinse gently and then pick through and discard any green or mushy berries or twigs. To freeze: rinse, drain, pick through and let dry. Freeze in a tightly covered container.Frozen berries can be added to most baking recipes without thawing, but not to quick-cooking pancakes.

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Tagged With: berries, summer, seasonal fruit, cobblers, pies, jam

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