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True blue: Get cooking with blueberries, nature's tiny superfruit

 

Archie Noy of Columbus unloads fresh blueberries and other homegrown produce at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market Monday in Columbus.

Archie Noy of Columbus unloads fresh blueberries and other homegrown produce at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market Monday in Columbus.
Photo by: Luisa Porter

 

Blueberry muffins.

Blueberry muffins.
Photo by: Provided

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

Don''t let the blueberry''s small size fool you. This little power food is packed with flavor and nutrition, lower in calories than many fruits, with zero fat. And, what could be easier? No peeling, coring or cutting. 

 

The deep bluish-black perennials have even been referred to as "brain berries," because they''re a stellar source of antioxidant phytonutrients. Early research suggests regular consumption may support healthy memory function, according to studies published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and other periodicals. 

 

For true berry buffs, few things beat plucking wild ones off a bush and enjoying them on the spot; those often have the most intense flavor. Although the blueberry season north of us is still peaking, Mississippi''s best window is waning. But early farmers'' market shoppers on market days are still finding some fresh berries. Many freeze them to use in fruit salads, pancakes, waffles, muffins, cakes, breads, pies, ice cream, yogurt, jellies and jams. Blueberries can also star in a a wide variety of cooked desserts, as you can see today in recipes gleaned from the Golden Triangle. 

 

 

 

Buyers'' tips 

 

Savvy shoppers look for berries that are plump, firm, uniform in size and have the silvery bloom coating. If that''s missing, it''s an indication they''re not fresh, or that they''ve been washed. (Washed berries won''t keep as long as unwashed berries, says recipetips.com.) 

 

Berries with a reddish color to them aren''t ripe yet, but can still be used if they''re going to be cooked.  

 

If buying frozen berries, be sure they''re separated and loose in the bag. Clumps of frozen berries are a sign they''ve been at least partially thawed and then refrozen. 

 

Unwashed blueberries can be stored in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Be sure to remove any moldy or damaged culprits so they don''t contaminate the rest. 

 

 

 

Freezing berries 

 

When freezing blueberries for future use, don''t wash them. The waxy coating offers protection. 

 

Bettycrocker.com advises spreading berries on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan for freezing. Then transfer the frozen fruit to your preferred freezer container or bag.  

 

If your frozen blueberries are destined to be used in baked goods, you can prevent the "bleeding" of color into the batter by being sure berries are still frozen solid when stirred in, just before baking. 

 

Don''t wait any longer to load up on blueberries. Today we share a few recipes to use them in. These come from "The Great Commission" cookbook, compiled by First Baptist Church in Starkville; the West Point Pilot Club''s "Sharing our Best" cookbook; and "On Cooking: Techniques from Expert Chefs," by Sarah Labensky and Alan Hause.  

 

 

 

BLUEBERRY-PINEAPPLE NUT CRUNCH 

 

 

 

2 cups blueberries 

 

1/2 cup sugar total 

 

2 tablespoons lemon juice 

 

One 15.5-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained 

 

One butter cake mix 

 

One stick margarine, melted 

 

     

     

  • Mix blueberries with half the sugar (1/4 cup) and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Layer fruit in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. Spread cake mix evenly over the fruit mixture. 

     

  • Spread remaining 1/4 cup sugar over cake mix and drizzle with melted margarine. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top. 

     

  • Bake in 350 degree oven for one hour. (After about 20 minutes baking, remove dish from oven and cut in squares to allow fruit mixture to bubble through the cake mix. Return to oven and complete baking time.)
 

 

(Source: Fran Herring, "The Great Commission Cookbook," First Baptist Church, Starkville) 

 

 

 

BLUEBERRY PIE 

 

 

 

4 cups blueberries (can mix berries) 

 

1/2 cup sugar 

 

3 tablespoons cornstarch 

 

1/2 cup all purpose flour 

 

1 tablespoon baking powder 

 

3 tablespoons butter 

 

1/2 cup milk 

 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

 

1 tablespoon sugar 

 

     

     

  • Mix blueberries and sugar with cornstarch. Set aside or put in a casserole dish that is oblong and 2-inches deep. 

     

  • Mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Add milk and mix. Drop by tablespoons on top of the berries. 

     

  • Bake at 350 degrees until light brown on top. Serve warm with ice cream.
 

 

(Source: Dean Dill, "Sharing Our Best," Pilot Club of West Point) 

 

 

 

BLUEBERRY BANANA DESSERT 

 

 

 

3/4 cup margarine 

 

1 1/2 cup self rising flour 

 

1 cup chopped pecans 

 

One 9-ounce package cream cheese 

 

1 cup sugar 

 

Two packages Cool Whip 

 

Five ripe bananas 

 

One 16-ounce can blueberry pie filling 

 

     

     

  • Melt margarine in bottom of a 9-by-13 inch Pyrex dish and add flour and pecans. Mix well and spread over bottom of dish. Bake at 275 degrees for one hour. Cool. 

     

  • Beat together cream cheese and sugar. Fold one package of Cool Whip into cream cheese mixture. Spread over crust and top with bananas and cover with blueberry pie filling. Use the second package of Cool Whip as the topping over the blueberry. 

     

  • Cover and chill in refrigerator; cut into squares to serve.
 

 

(Source: Mae Caudill, "Sharing our Best," Pilot Club of West Point) 

 

 

 

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS 

 

Makes 12 muffins 

 

 

 

8 ounces all purpose flour 

 

5 ounces granulated sugar 

 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

 

Two eggs 

 

8 ounces milk 

 

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted 

 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

 

3/4 cup blueberries 

 

1 tablespoon lemon zest 

 

     

     

  • Sift dry ingredients together.  

     

  • Stir together liquid ingredients, including melted butter 

     

  • Stir the liquid mixture into dry ingredients. Do not overmix. (Batter should be lumpy.) 

     

  • Gently fold in blueberries and lemon zest 

     

  • Portion into greased or paper-lined muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees until light brown, approximately 18 minutes. 

     

  • Cool muffins in the pan for several minutes before removing.
 

 

(Source: Sarah R. Labensky/Alan M. Hause, "On Cooking") 

 

BLUEBERRY POUND CAKE 

 

 

 

One box Duncan Hines butter recipe cake mix 

 

One small box instant vanilla pudding 

 

One package cream cheese 

 

Three eggs 

 

1/2 cup oil 

 

One can blueberries (in their own syrup) 

 

Powdered sugar 

 

     

     

  • Mix cake mix, dry pudding mix, cream cheese (softened), eggs and oil.  

     

  • Add can of blueberries, drained (reserve liquid for icing.) Mix and pour into bundt pan (greased and floured). Bake at 350 degrees until done (about 45 minutes). 

     

  • For icing, use saved juice and mix with powdered sugar. Drizzle over cake.
 

 

(Source: Ann Brent, "The Great Commission Cookbook," First Baptist Church, Starkville)

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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