Blueberries. I am basking in this little beauty’s all-around goodness: taste, appearance, picking comfort, versatility, preservability, and remarkably high nutritional value. Blueberries have been characterized as a “superfood”, which is a food that provides well above-average health benefits. They are an excellent source of phytonutrients (including the antioxidant pigment giving them their distinctive color) which fight both free radical damage and inflammation. They also offer plentiful vitamins (vitamin C in particular), minerals and fiber, which supports healthy digestion, regular elimination and balanced blood sugar levels.
Ideally, berries would ripen all year round, but because they are a short season specialty, enjoying them now and making time to put some by have become long-standing summertime traditions. Remember the children’s book Blueberries for Sal? Mother is picking blueberries to can for next winter, and little Sal is eating them along the way. For the biggest nutritional punch, you should eat them Sal’s way: fresh, raw and wild (or organically-grown). If you have access to plentiful berries now, you can capture a bit of summer and have those flavors, colors and nutrients available throughout the year.
Preserving Blueberries: I recommend freezing, although you can can them too. Most canning recipes include sweetening them with either sugar or corn syrup, two ingredients I’d rather avoid. The heat from the cooking step in canning, jam and syrup recipes destroys some of the nutrients in the berries. And, it involves the time-honored process of canning, which I (unlike Sal’s Mother) was born too late to know how to do instinctively. I have every intention of mastering the art and passing it on to my children, but for now, and for blueberries, I stick to freezing.
- Do not wash the berries, just give them a quick rinse to release any dirt, and let them dry.
- Lay them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer until berries are fully frozen.
- Once they resemble little purple marbles, you can roll them into plastic bags or air-tight containers and store in the freezer.
- When you are ready to use them for muffins, pancakes, compotes, pies, yogurt, smoothies, etc… you do not have to defrost them first. They work best incorporated into recipes while still frozen. Enjoy!!
Raw Elder-Blue SuperJam
To preserve the berries’ nutrients, this jam recipe keeps all ingredients raw and uses chia seeds instead of pectin. All you need is a food processor and a refrigerator. Homemade super healthy jam. Done.
If blueberries make you think of pancakes and muffins, here’s a hardier-than-most recipe which is fitting now with fresh berries, or any time of the year with frozen ones.
A perfect blueberry muffin (not the cake-like puffs masquerading as something healthier I see in far too many cafes). Great for breakfast, snacks, with lunch or as an accompaniment to a hearty soup or fresh salad for dinner. For a sturdier version, try them with cheddar cheese. Absolutely wonderful served with homemade butter (which is easy to make while the muffins are baking).
- 1 1/2 cup flour (all or a good portion as whole wheat flour)
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or melted butter
- 1/2 cup maple syrup or raw honey
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup hempseeds or ground flaxseeds* (for added fiber and omega-3 fatty acids)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Combine all dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg, and mix in yogurt and other wet ingredients.
- Mix contents of two bowls together, add hemp or flaxseeds, half the cheese (if using) and the blueberries. Be careful to just fold in the berries so as not to damage them.
- Fill a muffin tin or paper muffin cups 3/4 of the way, divide the remaining cheese over the tops (if using) and bake in a 350˚ oven for 20-25 minutes.
* For more information on why and how to grind flaxseeds, click here.