Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Here come the Blueberries

Where did August go? Already it's time for blueberries.

Blueberries are some of Maine’s most famous edible treasures. These tiny purses filled with sweet and sour, enrobed in royal purple, burst on your tongue leaving a smile behind. Just the idea of fresh blueberry pie makes me think of summer. These versatile berries are an excellent addition to any meal. By themselves or atop a salad, the blueberry explodes with both color and flavor- a feast for both your eyes and mouth.

If you look at the flower end of each berry the fruit bears a perfect five pointed star. Native Americans told stories about these “star berries”. Blueberries were dried and used in soups, stews, and jerky. The wisdom of the Native Americans spoke of the health giving properties of the berry that scientists are confirming today. Blueberries are one of the best fruits to eat for their antioxidant qualities. Not only are they healthy- they’re delicious too.

We all have read the book Blueberries for Sal. If you’re lucky enough (or brave enough) you have gone blueberry picking yourself, you know this is no easy task. There are no plink-plank-plunks in the bucket of today’s blueberry harvest. These days rakes are used by field workers to scoop the berries off of their stems. They carefully remove the leaves and package them up in tidy quart containers. It’s a difficult job that they make so easy for us.

The delicious berries are ready to be incorporated into your favorite recipe. Whether it’s muffins, salad or smoothies- they add fiber, vitamins and incredible flavor to your meal. Try them whenever you would use strawberries, raspberries or cherries. Dried blueberries are a wonderful addition to trail mix, and are great to snack on by the hand full.

When you see fresh Maine Blueberries at your local farm stand buy a few extra quarts. At home, place the quart containers of unwashed berries in individual zip plastic bags and store them in your freezer. They will be ready and waiting for your favorite recipe this winter. Any time of year is a great time to eat fresh Maine Blueberries!
Blueberry Bran Muffins
These muffins are a delightful treat on a summer morning. They are scrumptious hot out of the oven. If you and your family can’t eat them all- they freeze well. Just place them into a plastic zip bag and toss them in the deep freeze for later.
3c. Bran (All Bran Cereal works well here)
1c. Boiling water
1/2c. melted butter or oil
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
2c. buttermilk
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t cinnamon
2 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 c. fresh Maine blueberries- washed, with any stems removed
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a dozen large muffin cups with papers.
Place Bran in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the top and cover. Let stand for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the melted butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat well for three minutes.
Add the softened bran mixture. Stir until well incorporated.
Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until blended. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough.
Gently fold in the blueberries.
Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon gently fill the muffin cups to 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly golden.
Place the 1 t. cinnamon and 1/2 c. sugar into a shallow bowl and mix together. In another bowl place the 1/2 c. melted butter. When the muffins are still warm dip the tops lightly in the melted butter then into the cinnamon sugar. This will form a most delicious crust.
You can also make this recipe using mini muffin tins or a 9 x 11 pan- adjust the baking time to be sure the centers are done and the edges not too brown.

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