There is nothing sweeter like popping a fresh picked blueberry in your mouth.
Berries are best...
When it comes to making better choices in what you eat, berries are best for their antioxidant ratios, fiber and vitamins. Blueberries have the highest source of manganese and boasts only 80 calories per 8 oz serving. Vitamin C is also abundant in blueberries.
Trying to eat healthy can be a challenge with each trip to the grocery store. The middle of the stores are packed with processed foods leaving room on the perimeters for the fresh foods we ought to be eating more of. Some processed foods may say they have blueberries in them but have ingredients that are only made to taste like blueberries. Look for the Made with Real Blueberries label to be sure. The berries you get locally are better and most often tastier since they have not been transported hundreds of miles to get to you. Think about that.
Clear the free radicals Baby, cause the blueberries are making it happen!
FREEZING BLUEBERRIES: The blueberries are the easiest to preserve frozen. Just put them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and stick into the freezer for about half an hour. They should be like little marbles by then. Pour them into gallon freezer bags, label with the date and put in the freezer. When you want to make a breakfast smoothie, the berries are ready to go.
Blueberry production has skyrocketed in recent years according to the Blueberry Council. Check out the wealth of information from the blueberry council by clicking on the link above.
We are now in the 4th week into our full-diet CSA at Moutoux Orchards and the blueberries are in! I have not always been a blueberry fan, but after this year blueberries are the best. The spring rains here in Virginia have been a boon for the farmers as far as output goes. Diseases are up given the rainfall, but yields are also higher.
For the next few weeks share holders of the farm's CSA program have 2 rows ripe for the picking.
My husband Peter & I went out with our containers and started picking. The rows are enclosed under netting lest the birds strip the berries clean. The gnats are bad everywhere you go, but the really cool thing is that you are connecting to where your food comes from. We felt like little kids with our berry buckets under the bird netting. Some birdies have found their way under the nets but we are happy to share with them. Maybe we can come out this winter and volunteer some time to prune the berry patch for next year's production. Peter teaches pruning classes and this would be a fun class to teach...or just to help out at the farm.
Thanks for taking me berry picking, Petey. Berries are best!
Peter picks berries at the farm.
CSA stands for Community Support Agriculture. By working directly with the farmer you reap in the successes and failures of the farming process. If there is an abundance in the yield, then all shareholders benefit and vice versa. We made a year long commitment with Moutoux Orchards for a full diet CSA. This means that we visit the farm each week, generally on a Friday and pick up our groceries. We signed a herd share agreement to allow us to receive raw dairy and related products as part of the program.
The first week was an abundance of garlic scapes, greens, meats (beef, pork, & lamb) , unlimited organic eggs, dairy (milk, yogurt, kefir, cheese, whey), and organic grains (wheat & oat berries), wheat, spelt & oat flours. It is truly a commitment for both the shareholder and the farmer to work together so that all benefit. Rob (farmer) has 2 helpers this year, Eric and Allie who squish bugs by hand, harvest veggies, pick eggs, weed, and milk our cows each day. It is hard work. I have a newfound appreciation for where all of my food comes from and feel grateful each day for all their hard work.
I plan my 45 hour work week so that I can drive 20 miles to the farm each Friday afternoon (since this is kind of a celebration being the end of the week) with all my bags and cooler to Moutoux Orchards for the pickup. Eric, Rob and Allie are there in the small red barn standing behind the bounty produced from the land each week.
Bonnie's Blueberry Smoothie:
My early morning smoothies have been a combination of : a handful of berries (any kind you want), 1/2 cup of whey, 1/2 cup of kefir, 1 tablespoon of raw honey, agave, or maple syrup, 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, maybe a whole raw egg, a sprinkle of cinnamon and sometimes a dash of vanilla. Use the hand blender and blend until smooth. I drink this around 5:30 before I have to drive into work. There is nothing healthier and sustainable than this drink. It keeps me going until lunch around 11AM in the morning with no snacks. Now, if I worked out or was more active I would need something more substantial. I save the cooked breakfasts like bacon and eggs and homemade bread for the weekends when I can relax and enjoy myself.
After freezing some of the berries I decided with the 3 day lazy weekend to make some blueberry jam. I browse all my cookbooks and the internet for recipes with some unique ingredients for blueberry jam and found one of Alton Brown's recipes. I have modified it here with a few minor tweeks and am delighted with how it turned out. With fresh produce you have to strike while the iron is hot to make the best of the optimum time. So blueberry jam, it was.
scented with star anise, nutmeg, & orange
adapted from Alton Brown's recipe
1 1/2 pounds of fresh or frozen blueberries (free of stems and debris)
1 packet (1.75 ounce) dry pectin
1/4 teaspoon star anise, finely ground **
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
zest & juice from 1 orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
YIELD: 6 x 8 ounce jars (or 12 x 4 oz jars) Smaller jars are great for gifts.
1. Put the blueberries in a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. Add pectin, spices, orange (zest & juice) and lemon. When liquid begins to form in the pan, raise the heat so that the mixture begins to boil. Squish the berries on the side of the pan with a flat spoon (or you can use a potato masher). Lower heat to about medium and gently boil for about 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir to incorporate, then add water. Return to the boil for a minute or so. Turn off heat and cool completely. This will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
2. If you made a lot and can't think of friends to share with right now, consider preserving the rest.
You can find canning kits at many hardware stores or some grocery stores. I have found all the preserving supplies also at Southern States (here in the Mid-Atlantic). Follow the directions for preparing the jars and lids by washing them all out in the dishwasher or hot soapy water. Bring the large canning pot to a boil and place the empty jars in to be sterilized for 10 minutes. Pull all the parts. Put the lids in a small saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Add the lids and heat gently (so as not to melt the sealing edge of the lid) for about 5 minutes.
3. Using tongs, carefully pull out the jars, draining them of water and place on a clean towel or cooling rack. When ready to fill, take care not to touch the inside of the jar or the rim. Use a wide funnel in each jar and fill with jam leaving 1/2 inch of head space at the top. Use a clean paper towel to wipe the top of each filled jar. Use the magnetic tool you found in your kit to grab the small lid and carefully place on top. Screw the lids but not too tightly and place in the rack to be lowered back into the canning pot. Make sure there is enough water in the canning pot so that there is at least an inch of water above the top of the jars.
4. Processing times may vary according to your altitude, so check the label in the instruction booklet to know how long to can. Once you lower the jars into the water, let it come back to the boil and process for at least 15 minutes. When the timer is up, use your tongs and carefully tull each jar out and place on a towel on the counter or a cooling rack to cool. You will begin to hear pops from each jar as it cools, thus sealing in the blueberry goodness.
5. Don't forget to label and date your bounty. I have mystery jars of stuff I canned last year and can only guess as to what they are. Mystery salsa or some unknown condiment...
**NOTE: Whole star anise is what you will find in the stores. You will find this spice in ethnic markets that cater to Asian cuisines. If you are lucky to have a small coffee grinder (under $20), use it for grinding up 1 whole star anise. Whole nutmeg can also be found in grocery stores or asian markets. Use ground nutmeg in a pinch because fresh ground is always going to be the better choice.
The flavors are subtle and not overpowering...even the cider vinegar. It cuts the richness of the blueberries and adds an important acidic element to this condiment. Don't leave it out.
Bonnie's spicey notes:
STAR ANISE: Found mostly in Chinese, Japanese and Indian cuisines, this star shaped spice is the fruit of an evergreen tree that grows in Southeast Asia and Japan. It is related to the magnolia and is in the genus, Illicium. A primary ingredient in Chinese 5 spice powder and Indian garam masala, star anise will keep indefinitely in its whole form. You can also purchase it via mail order through Penzey's , My Spice Sage, and Kalustyans. I hope you will try new spices with your home cooking.
NUTMEG: I saw fresh whole nutmeg growing on trees down in Saint Lucia in the Caribbean a few years ago. Spice merchants often used whole spices as cash for fair trade items. Nutmeg is meant to be used sparingly and is most often grated into recipes. Too much nutmeg can lend a soapy taste to your recipe. Grated nutmeg is often found in crepe batter and grated on top of fresh eggnog. See sources above for fresh nutmeg...but don't forget you can also find them locally in larger cities that have large ethnic Asian & Indian populations.
Bonnie's Blueberry jam
This blueberry post would be lacking without sharing a link to a recipe for Red & Blue Brioche tartlets from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I saw Zoe's post in my RSS feed and decided that this would be part of the weekend cooking lineup. I fortunately had some almond paste in the fridge so I could make the almond creme to go along with the brioche dough. Since I had already made the blueberry jam and had blueberries, all I needed was some red raspberries and raspberry jam.
All I could find for raspberry jam was red raspberry pepper jam. When I opened it, I realized that it was pepper jam...so tasted it and it was delicious! So, the red tartlets would be filled with red raspberry pepper jam and the blueberry jam in the others. Check out the recipe and add it to your recipes to try this month while the berries are in.
I was lucky to have a Pampered Chef mini tart pan for these little cutie pies. It is morning now as I write this post, so I am a bit famished and need to go eat one of them. The almond frangipane gives a balancing sweetness to this little tart.
Try something new with fresh blueberries. Start this year. We look at recipes and say they sound wonderful, but how often to you actually make them happen.
Make something new today!
Happy Fourth of July and Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends to the north...