By Chef Kelly Unger of The Rooster & The Carrot Cooking Studio: farm to table cooking classes
Blueberries bring cheer with their gorgeous color alone. This tiny fruit packs a health-filled wallop as well. Blueberries prevent adrenaline from damaging other organs, are high in fiber, antioxidants, Vitamin C and K. They also play the role of defensive linemen for your heart, preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol and lowering your blood pressure. Blueberries are best eaten raw, but eat them every which way you can. I love eating a cereal bowl full of blueberries topped with some granola, coconut flakes and coconut milk. It’s one of my favorite summer breakfasts.
Blueberries are also very versatile. They are as at home in a pie or pancake as they are in a salad, smoothie or barbecue sauce. Blueberries are high in natural pectin, that thickening substance found in some fruits, like apples and cranberries. That’s good news because you don’t need to use an additional thickener. So if you’re like me, and respond to the beauty of the blueberry with an impulsive bulk purchase and are concerned about your ability to eat them all before they go bad, you can cook a large batch all at once to make a blueberry base. Use a minimal amount of sugar – depending on the natural sweetness of your berries, but a good rule of thumb is ¼ cup of sugar per every 2 cups of blueberries. You can add a teaspoon or two of freshly squeezed lemon juice as well for brightness. Cook this all together with a little bit of water (about ¼ cup or more if needed) until the berries start to break down a little so the pectin can be released. I like to cook it just enough so there’s equal amounts of sauciness and texture from the just broken open berries. Then store the cooked and cooled mixture in the refrigerator for a quick pie filling, ice cream topping, fruit spread or salad dressing base. If you like your pie filling really thick, you will probably want to add some cornstarch dissolved in water towards the end of cooking – about a tablespoon of each. And many blueberry pie recipes do call for cornstarch. I personally prefer to use more blueberries to make a filling thicker. You can add fresh blueberries stirred into your cooked and cooled blueberry base to make the blueberriest pie ever!
For a quick pie: mix fresh blueberries into blueberry base (as described above) and add to your favorite cooked pie crust. Top with a layer of fresh whole blueberries and freshly whipped cream.
For salad dressing: mix ¼ cup cooked blueberry base with 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar and ½ cup olive oil with a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Add more blueberry base and vinegar by the tablespoon to adjust to your taste.