Blueberries are a fresh summer favorite

July 1, 2014 

Berry picking is a summer ritual in our home.

When I was a girl, I always went berry-picking with my grandparents. My mom would sit in the car reading a book while my grandparents and I did the picking. My grandmother was a determined picker. It did not matter if a snake was swimming nearby, she was going after the last few berries.

I am not that bad. I see a snake, and I'm gone. Our daughter, Elyssa, has gone berry-picking since she was about 5 or 6. She and I continue the family outing, but just the two of us go. My husband, Allen, gladly keeps the grandbaby and stays cool.

Last week, we picked blueberries at my friend Calvin Coleman's. The large berries were a little late coming in, but the taste makes up for the tardiness. Even though the sky was overcast and threatening rain, it was still hot -- so hot that Elyssa gave up early and went to the car. Perhaps she is more like my mother than me.

I hung in there. I picked until I could find few blue ones left because the end result was worth it. The best and largest berries could be found inside the bushes, not on the ends of the branches where they were harder and less fruitful. I decided the berries were a lot like people: Some are sweet and fruitful while others enjoy being on the edge or a little crusty.

"How could you stand the heat?" Elyssa asked me.

I just handed her large mixing bowls full of berries. She and my family like the hot blueberry muffins for breakfast or fresh berries on their cereal and a refreshing smoothie or a bowl of chilled blueberry soup.

Friday is the Fourth of July and a good time to use fresh berries in salads and desserts. Blueberries make for pretty and tasty patriotic-themed desserts, such as a fruit pizza made with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries on a sweet cream cheese-topped sugar cookie crust. Gelatin salads, too, go patriotic with strawberries, blueberries and cream cheese or whipped topping.

Remember, if you intend to freeze the berries, do not wash them. Just bag them fresh from the bush

es. Wash them when you intend to use, no earlier.

Nothing beats in-season fresh fruits and vegetables, especially sweet berries. Here are some sweet ideas for July Fourth and other summer days. Some of these recipes have been in my family and in my files for years.

BLUEBERRY CREAM PIE WITH PHYLLO CRUST

8 sheets phyllo dough (14 inches by 9 inches)

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup strawberry jelly

1 cup whipped topping

Sliced fresh strawberries and additional blueberries (optional)

Place 1 phyllo sheet in a greased 9-inch pie plate; brush with butter. Repeat seven times; trim edges. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.

Bake at 425 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (center will puff up). Cool on a wire rack.

For filling, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; cover edges with foil to prevent over browning. Bake 23 to 27 minutes longer or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled.

In a small bowl, beat jelly until smooth; spread over filling. Spread with whipped topping. Garnish with strawberries and additional blueberries if desired. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

ELYSSA'S BLUEBERRY-STRAWBERRY SMOOTHIE

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup fresh strawberries

1 cup skim milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ice

Put all ingredients in blender container and blend until smooth. The amount of ice depends on how frozen you want the smoothie to be.

This tart can be likened to a blueberry creme brulee. Need I say more?

BLUEBERRY BROWN BUTTER TART

7 ounces butter

1/2 whole vanilla bean

7 eggs

2- 1/2 cups sugar

4 ounces all-purpose flour

Enough blueberries to fill the bottom of a 9-inch pie shell, homemade or pre-made.

9-inch pie shell

Cook butter and vanilla until golden brown. Mix sugar and eggs until combined but not overmixed. Add the flour and mix. Add the browned butter to make a batter. Fill the pie shell with berries and cover with batter.

Bake at 375 degrees until custard is set, about 20 minutes. It may appear cracked on top, but be sure custard underneath is set before removing from the oven. Yield: 1 blueberry tart.

-- Submitted by Maryjane Choate

What would the Fourth of July be without ice cream? Eugenia Baucum shares a recipe for a blueberry topping that is good on ice cream or pound cake, or even pancakes or French toast.

BLUEBERRY TOPPING

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup boiling water (may need to use less)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups blueberries

Mix sugar and cornstarch together. Add water, mixing well. Add blueberries. Cook until blueberries are done and mixture is thick. (If blueberries were washed before adding, you will need to use less water.)

-- Submitted by Eugenia Baucum

A woman who was my childhood babysitter gave me this recipe when I got married. She was an awesome cook and like a second mom to me.

BLUEBERRY SALAD

2 cups blueberries

2 packages lemon gelatin

1 pint frozen whipped topping

2 cups pineapple juice

2 mashed bananas

Dissolve gelatin in hot water and juice; cool and add blueberries and bananas. Fold in frozen whipped topping; chill.

Now for my favorite, chilled blueberry soup. This soup is good with salads, sandwiches or a light dinner. I have made this soup for more than 20 years.

CHILLED BLUEBERRY SOUP

1 cup blueberries

1 slice lemon

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups water

2 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 cup heavy cream or, for lighter soup, half 'n' half

Frozen orange juice concentrate to taste

In saucepan, combine blueberries, lemon, cinnamon and 2 cups water. Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar and salt. Combine cornstarch with a little water and add to mixture. Bring to a boil again and simmer 1 minute.

Remove cinnamon; puree mixture in blender until smooth. Add cream. Taste; if stronger flavor is desired, add frozen orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time until desired flavor is achieved. Cool and chill well.

-- From "Cordon Bluegrass"

Thanks so much

"Thank you for all the gluten-free recipes," said Susan, the reader who asked for the recipes. "This is a service to our community."

Keeping cool

A reader named Sheila wants some ideas for meals that do not heat the kitchen. "I want some cool, light recipes and main-dish salad ideas."

Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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