July 13, 2011 1:07:00 PM
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.
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.
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
(Source: Fran Herring, "The Great Commission Cookbook," First Baptist Church, Starkville)
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
(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
(Source: Mae Caudill, "Sharing our Best," Pilot Club of West Point)
Makes 12 muffins
8 ounces all purpose flour
5 ounces granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces milk
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon zest
(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
1/2 cup oil
One can blueberries (in their own syrup)
(Source: Ann Brent, "The Great Commission Cookbook," First Baptist Church, Starkville)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.