Bountiful Berries

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If you follow me on social media, then you know that we have been busy picking berries.  We went and picked 3lbs of blueberries at a local U-Pick farm.  My cousin has a HUGE patch of wild blackberries on her new farm that she let us come and pick from.  We ended up with a gallon of fresh blackberries.  And we decided we loved all of our blueberries so much that we went back and picked another 4.5lbs this past Saturday!

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L stealing blueberries from my bucket to put into hers. That stinker!

“What are you doing with all of those berries?” you ask.  Well, I’m going to give you all sorts of ideas and things that we have done to make the most of this great berry season.

But first, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the connection between all of these beautiful berries and our bees.  (You knew it was coming, right?)  I have become so obsessed with our honey bees that I’m constantly learning more and more about them.  Blueberries have a very heavy pollen and their flower parts aren’t easy to get to, so blueberries must be pollinated by bees and other pollinators.  Wind will not do the job for them.  However, honey bees are not the only bees that do the job.  There are numerous bees that must be present to pollinate blueberry flowers.  There is even a bee called the Southeastern Blueberry Bee!  It is aptly named because it is primarily active during the blueberry flowering season.  This bee is mostly found in the southeastern area of the United States so it is unlikely that these bees had anything to do with pollinating the blueberries we picked.  The blueberry farm that we picked from did say that in the past they have had honey bees trucked in to help pollinate the crop, but that after 40 years they believe that the native pollinators in the region know where the bushes are.  Now the farmers rely solely on pollinators already in the area.  Bees are also attracted to blackberry pollen.  Blackberries are members of the rose family of plants which also includes flowering roses and almonds, which bees rely on heavily.

Ok. Ok.  You want me to get on to the good stuff.  How did we eat all of those yummy berries?  We have had berries several different ways.

1. Blueberry Jam

I found this recipe for blueberry jam on Pinterest.  I loved the fact that it used honey instead of sugar.  I didn’t get to use our honey because, if you remember, we have to let the bees keep it this year so they have enough for winter.  I used a single 12oz jam jar instead of two 4oz jars.  And I also didn’t use the lemon zest because I didn’t have a lemon lying around.  It was REALLY good anyway.  We have eaten it on rolls, croissants and English muffins.

2. Baby food

I have been trying to get as much baby food in the freezer for J as I can while we have fresh produce.  Even though he just started eating oatmeal, frozen pureed baby food can last in the freezer at least 3-4 months.  With L, I was very intimidated at the thought of making my own baby food, but after some research I found out that you basically just puree food so they don’t choke.  Not much to it.  For the blueberries, all I did was steam them for about 3 minutes and then I pureed them in the food processor.  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.  Once the cubes are frozen, remove and place in a labeled freezer bag.  When you are ready you can defrost as many cubes as you need in the microwave.  Easy, fresh baby food.  I will probably mix the blueberries with mashed bananas to add sweetness, but you want to make sure to only introduce one new food to baby at a time to be able to catch any allergies.

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Steaming the blueberries.

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Blueberry puree after being frozen.

3. Frozen blueberries

Now that I’m staying home I have time for a decent breakfast instead of a granola bar on the way out of the door, so I have been making a lot of smoothies.  One of my favorite ingredients is frozen blueberries.  To freeze the blueberries lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Place the sheet in the freezer.  Once the berries are frozen remove them and place in a labeled freezer bag.  Freezing them on the sheet first keeps them from freezing in a giant glob.  My favorite smoothie right now is a mixture of frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, a handful of spinach, TBSP of oatmeal and some almond milk.

Blueberries after being frozen.

Blueberries after being frozen.

4. Blackberry jam

I simply used the recipe in the Sure-Jell box.  We haven’t even tried this jam yet because we’ve been eating the blueberry jam, but I did process this using the water bath method and all jars sealed.  Success!

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5.  Blackberry cobbler

I’m sad to say that I still need to work on this.  It came out very soupy.  It did still taste amazing with vanilla ice cream, but I won’t post the recipe until I get the kinks worked out.

6. Blackberry Thyme Baked Cheese

Last night I tried this amazing recipe for blackberry and thyme baked cheese!  I used brie, but she says that you can also try Camembert which I will have to try as well.  Also, if you are not planning on making the cocktail she mentions then I think you could get by with just half of the amount of blackberry sauce.  I had extra that I didn’t feel would fit on the cheese.  Because I felt like this was a fancy little appetizer and because I’m trying to become more of a wine connoisseur (All the advice I’ve got on this is to simply drink more wine.  I think I can do that!), I decided to try to pair this with a wine.  I used the Hello Vino app on my phone.  It gives recommendations based on what you plan to eat.  When looking up brie, the app recommended a chardonnay.  I picked up a Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2013.  I think that I should’ve tried to find a pairing for the blackberries instead.  The sweetness of the blackberries made this wine taste much drier than I believe the wine should have tasted.  On its own, this wine was okay.  It was still a bit drier than I prefer, but I’m a lover of moscato and ice wine, so keep that in mind.

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7.  Blueberry Croissant Puff

Yesterday morning we made this blueberry croissant puff.  It was REALLY good!  I didn’t let it soak overnight, but I highly recommend that you do.  I would also recommend possibly cooking it longer than the 25 minutes.  Mine was still a little on the soggy side after 25 minutes, but I wonder if that was due to me not letting soak overnight.  It was still delicious either way.  I highly recommend this for a weekend breakfast.

8.  Blueberry muffins

You can’t have a list of things to do with berries, especially blueberries, and not include muffins.  I made these muffins on the Fourth of July.  And since I know that you will want the recipe, here it is!  Sorry, I didn’t take pictures during the process.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins


Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Makes about 18 muffins

Ingredients:

  • Streusel Topping
    • 1 cup flour
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 stick of melted salted butter
    • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • Muffins
    • 1 & 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
    • 1 & 1/8 cup of sugar
    • 2 & 1/2 cups flour
    • 2 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 4 TBSP melted salted butter
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

1. Melt the butter for the streusel topping.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until crumbly. (This is delicious and will be hard to not snack on while you finish the muffins.)

2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add liners to your muffin pans.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together.

4. Mix the sugar and eggs.  Add the melted butter and oil.  Stir until combined.  Then add the milk and vanilla, again mixing until combined.

5. Using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture and blueberries.  It is okay if your batter is a tad lumpy. You do not want to over mix or smoosh your blueberries.

6.  Fill your muffin cups fully with the batter.  Sprinkle the streusel topping on each muffin cup and pat slightly so that the topping will stick.

7.  Bake until muffins are firm to the touch in the center, about 20-25 minutes.  Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving as the blueberries will be very hot.

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