Working With Blueberries

Blueberries are delicious added to muffins, cakes and pancakes.  I also like to make cobblers, tortes, pies and jelly. They provide vitamins A, C, E and folic acid.  That little blue fruit is packed with a higher level of antioxidants than most other fruits.

I love to pick fresh blueberries whether farm grown or wild.  In Alaska there are both low bush and high bush wild  blueberries growing all over the place.  Blueberries ripen in the fall inviting many people to pick the tangy fruit while watching for hungry berry bears.

Freezing freshly picked fruit provides tasty treats throughout the winter and should be done as soon after picking as possible to preserve taste and vitamins. Spread some paper towels out on a baking sheet to provide a place to dry the rinsed berries. Using a baking sheet with sides will prevent the berries from rolling onto the counter top or floor.

You might just as well put on some good music, as this will take a while. First clean the berries by filling a large bowl or clean sink with cold water then gently pouring the berries into the water. The berries and leaves will float. Run your flat hand under the berries and lift a handful up. Most of the leaves will remain in the water. Pick out undesirable berries, leaves and debris then place them on the paper towels to dry. Do this a few hundred times and you'll be ready to freeze the berries.

Some studies show that washing blueberries before freezing toughens the skin. This may be the case but I like to wash the berries and pick out any leaves, over ripe or under ripe berries before freezing. I use the berries for baking or pancakes and tough skins don't seem to be an issue.

When dry, spread the blueberries in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. At this point you should not have any paper towels on the baking sheet. Place the blueberries in a freezer, keeping the baking sheet level. By freezing the berries in a single layer they will remain loose for the most part, not frozen in clumps so that they can be measured for recipes.

Write the date and the word blueberries on the bag before filling. Once they are frozen pour the berries into plastic freezer bags to prevent freezer burn. I use quart size zip top bags so that I can take out just the right amount and place the rest back in the freezer. Make sure to gently remove as much air as possible before closing the bag.

I like to drop frozen blueberries into my pancakes when they are on the griddle. Just drop a handful onto the batter before it sets up. Frozen blueberries can also be used in muffins, cobblers and tortes. They are easier to handle when frozen and thaw as they cook.

When making Jams, Jellies, pies and sauces it is best to un-thaw the berries by placing them in a bowl, on the counter or in the refrigerator, depending upon how soon they are needed.

If you don't have wild blueberries in your area, look for a farm that has pick-your-own. Picking blueberries is a fun way to spend the day and you certainly get the freshest fruit. Blueberries from the grocery can also be used and should be frozen as soon as possible for best taste.