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Little Blueberry Balls Pack a Big Punch

How to select and cook with blueberries.

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The blueberry is a Native American species that is cultivated from mid May until September. Lucky for us, frozen blueberries are available all year. Luscious, sweet blueberries are not only lowfat, but also a good source of both fiber and vitamin C. The blueberry is a “superfood” which means it’s damn good for you. Based on data from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (Boston, MA), blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are thought to help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals and chronic diseases associated with the aging process.

How To Select Fresh Blueberries
Look for: fresh blueberries that are firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems. Size is not an indicator of maturity but color is - berries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black.

Stay away from: containers of berries with juice stains which may be a sign that the berries are crushed and possibly moldy; soft, watery fruit that means the berries are overripe; dehydrated, and wrinkled fruit that means the berries have been stored too long.

How To Store Fresh Blueberries

Fresh berries should be stored covered, in the refrigerator and washed just before using. Use within 10 days of purchase.

Frozen Blueberries
Frozen blueberries are individually quick frozen so you can pull out a few or as many as needed.

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 (right from your freezer, if frozen) into 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. If frozen blueberries are used, cooking time may have to be increased to be sure the berries are heated through.

* Blueberries are friendly berries - they get along well with many types of foods and flavors. Though they can't be beat in all things sweet - such as cakes, puddings, muffins, pancakes, cookies, etc., don't forget, they're pretty impressive on the savory side, too. Their fresh, fruity flavor teams up perfectly with pork, chicken and game, and they're fantastic in fruit salsas and sauces accented with black or red pepper, thyme and mint.
* Spices love blueberries; try them with cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger and candled ginger, mace, nutmeg and vanilla beans or vanilla extract; also fresh herbs like cilantro, mint and basil.
* Dairy foods are a natural mate for blueberries - cottage cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, sour cream, heavy cream, ricotta cheese, or try blueberries as part of a fruit and cheese platter with mild cheeses such as Brie and goat cheese.
* Almost any fruit pairs well with blueberries - apples, apricots, coconut, melons, citrus fruits and all other berries.
* All kinds of nuts go well, especially almonds - almond paste.
* Liqueurs, such as orange or raspberry are good companions; also rum or rum extract.
* Try dried blueberries instead of raisins in your next granola mix, oatmeal cookies, gingerbread, cornbread or pound cake.

Produce Pete

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