Blueberries brighten any meal
July 12, 2016

Scoops of blueberry ice cream_119788756Summer cooking is all about low-maintenance preparation. Anything that requires minimal hands-on time from refrigerator to plate allows more time outside and is therefore a hero of the season. When it comes to low maintenance, blueberries take the cake. They require no peeling, pitting or chopping and are ready to go from their container straight into your favorite summer eats.

Choosing and storing: Look for blueberries that are uniform in color, plump and firm. Reddish or green berries are underripe and will be very tart. Choose containers that are not tightly packed, to keep the berries from getting crushed.

You might notice a silver-white coating on the outside of your blueberries. This is called bloom and it's an excellent sign of freshness. It is nature's way of protecting the berries from insects and bacteria.

Blueberries are the longest-lasting berry. If properly stored, they can last up to a week in the refrigerator. Store the berries in a ventilated, uncrowded container and only wash them right before using.

At their peak: Since blueberries require no lengthy preparation, they are a great choice for adding a quick and fruity spin to smoothies, milkshakes or blended sauces. Toss a handful in a blender with a banana, yogurt and splash of milk for a healthy and colorful breakfast.

Blueberries can be added to any batter, such as pancakes, muffins, waffles or cake. To keep them from sinking to the bottom while baking, give them a quick toss in flour or cornstarch to suspend them in the batter.

Blueberry and corn is a flavor combination that highlights the very best of summer. Stir blueberries into corn bread for a sweet and savory treat. Mix up a quick blueberry-corn salad to serve alongside grilled meat. Or make a corn bread biscuit topping for a new twist on blueberry cobbler. Served with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, this is a refreshing, not-too-sweet dessert to make all summer long.

Overripe: Blueberries that are past their prime can be incorporated into batters such as pancakes, muffins or cakes where their soft texture will not be a problem. However, your best bet when you notice berries losing their freshness is to get them in the freezer.

Blueberries are one of the best fruits for freezing and can keep up to a year when frozen. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid and then transfer to a sealed bag. Frozen berries can be used in smoothies, sauces and baking for months to come.

Journal Sentinel