There’s nothing more delicious than blueberries. A staple of our early ancestors, they’re as much a part of our heritage as country quilts and wood-burning stoves.
In addition to their visual appeal, intense blue color and sweet delectable flavor, blueberries are a healthy and convenient food. Readily available in Bladen County, blueberries are low in fat, sodium free and a good source of both fiber and vitamin C. In fact, a one cup serving of fresh blueberries will give you five grams of fiber — more than most fruits and vegetables — and 15 percent of your daily vitamin C at a cost of only 80 calories.
Blueberries are probably the easiest fruit to prepare and serve. There’s no peeling, pitting, coring, or cutting. Just rinse, eat and enjoy!
For optimal storage, berries should be refrigerated, but not washed until needed. Once chilled, they will maintain their quality from 10 days to two weeks. Remember, both frozen and fresh berries should be rinsed and drained just before serving.
Blueberries may change color when cooked. Acids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, cause the blue pigment in the berries to turn reddish. Blueberries also contain a yellow pigment, which in an alkaline environment, such as a batter with too much baking soda, may give you greenish-blue berries.
To reduce the amount of color streaking, stir your blueberries in last to your cake or muffin batter. For pancakes and waffles, add the blueberries as soon as the batter has been poured on the griddle or waffle iron. This will make the pancakes prettier and they’ll be easier to flip.
The secret to successful freezing is to use berries that are unwashed and completely dry before placing them in the freezer. Completely cover the blueberry containers with plastic wrap, store in an airtight, resealable plastic bag, or arrange dry berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. When frozen, transfer berries to plastic bags or freezer containers.
Blueberries should be kept frozen and any unused portion promptly returned to the freezer. If not used immediately, cover and refrigerate thawed berries and use within three days.
Source: North American Blueberry Council
Summer Blueberry Bash
Mark your calendars and plan to join us for the Summer Blueberry Bash. It will be held on Thursday, June 29, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Bladen County Cooperative Extension Office, 450 Smith Circle Drive in Elizabethtown.
We will be having speakers as well as a blueberry dish competition. Entry fee is $1 per recipe entered. Attendees will also pay $1 to sample and judge all the dishes. The blueberry dish with the most votes wins a $25 gift card.
Bring your treats with recipe starting at 2:30, tasting and speakers start at 3:00. Speaker topics include: History, growing and maintenance of blueberries, nutritional facts and storage of blueberries, along with a DIY blueberry sugar scrub and raffle.
All who attend will receive copies of the Summer Blueberry Bash recipes. Start trying out those blueberry recipes now to find your favorite. Call 910-862-4591 for more information.
Blueberry Quick Bread
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar blend for baking
4 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup fat-free milk
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup canned unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup flaked coconut
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar blend. Add the eggs, egg whites and lemon juice. Mix well. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternating with milk. Fold in the blueberries, pineapple, nuts and coconut.
Transfer to two 8 inch x 4 inch x 2 inch loaf pans, coated with nonstick spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at email@example.com or 910-862-4591.