July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Beautiful berries are back and abundant this year, so get ready

Many nutritionists consider blueberries a super food because they have been recognized as the fruit with the highest antioxidant activity and have a reputation for fighting infection, heart disease, and some cancers. (Stock photo)

If you were worried that our harsh Michigan winter took a toll on the beloved blueberries, you can breathe a sigh of relief and get out your best recipe for blueberry pie. According to Carlos Garcia, MSU Extension Educator for small fruit in West Central Michigan, the cold damage on blueberries will vary from variety to variety but for the most part, blueberries will be in abundance this year.

Garcia’s job is a big one: Michigan is the No. 1 state in highbush blueberry production with growers producing more than 100 million pounds of blueberries every year. “Some blueberry varieties stand up to cold more than other varieties,” says Garcia. “The late season varieties (Elliott and Jersey) may have lost 20-30 percent, but the heartier and more well known Blue Crop are doing pretty well with only about 10 percent damage.”

Blueberries have been trickling into farmer’s markets, but don’t despair if they sell out before you can indulge. You won’t have to go without for long, and Garcia says they will be around for awhile. “They started picking them the first week in July, but blueberries should be around until September,” he says.

Most nutritionists consider blueberries a super food. That’s because blueberries have consistently been recognized as the fruit with the highest antioxidant activity (more than three times as much as oranges, red grapes and cherries, and more than four times as much as grapefruit, white grapes, bananas and apples) and have a reputation for fighting infection, heart disease and some cancers. Not only do they pack a diverse menu of dietary fiber, vitamins A & C, niacin, iron and manganese, but they contain only 84 calories in a single cup with no cholesterol or fat.

But nutritional bonus aside, I simply adore those little berries and enjoy them daily whether morning, noon or night. They are terrific in my morning smoothie and make a nice salad topper, and a blueberry sauce for chicken or pork is a divine summer dish.

Blueberry selection and storage

■When selecting blueberries, look for plump berries with a blue-purple color; blueberries don’t typically ripen once picked.

■Store berries in an open container, chilled, allowing moisture to escape and as with most soft fruits, blueberries should not be washed until just before use to prevent softening.

■Fresh berries will last between 10 to 14 days. If you want to preserve them longer, arrange unwashed berries in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag or container. They will keep for one year.

Michigan Blueberries 'N Cream Pie

Recipe from michiganblueberries.com

¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch
18 teaspoon salt
Grated peel of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 pints fresh Michigan blueberries, rinsed and well drained, divided
1 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 baked 9-inch pie crust, cooled (store bought or homemade)

To prepare blueberry pie filling, in a large saucepan, combine ¼ cup sugar, cornstarch, salt, lime peel and juice and 1 ½ cup blueberries. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and blueberries are softened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining blueberries. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Chill 15 minutes. Whip cream,vanilla and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread about ¾ whipped cream in bottom of pie with spatula. Top with blueberry mixture. Garnish top of pie with piped whipped cream, or serve remaining whipped cream in bowl with pie. Chill pie at least ½ hour. Serves 8.

Per serving: 420 calories; 30 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 64 percent calories from fat); 36 g carbohydrates; 17 g sugar; 82 mg cholesterol; 184 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Blueberry Danish

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

¾ cup cottage cheese
13 cup sugar
13 cup low-fat milk
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Filling

4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries

Glaze

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

To make the dough, puree the cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add 13 cupsugar and the milk, canola oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend well. Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until a ball of dough forms. Refrigerate dough in plastic until chilled. To make the filling, blend the cream cheese and ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer. Add the egg yolk, lemon zest and the other teaspoon of vanilla. Stir well to combine. Roll the dough into a long rectangle. Spread the cream cheese mixture down the center. Sprinkle the blueberries over the cream cheese. Make 3-inch cuts along each side of the dough, about 1 inch apart. Cross the strips to create a braiding effect across the center. Transfer the danish to a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over warm pastry. Serves 10.

Per serving: 271 calories; 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 30 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 19 g sugar; 32 mg cholesterol; 199 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Blueberry Duck Roast

Recipe from the blueberrycouncil.org

1 ½ cups blueberries
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
18 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 wild duck breasts

Combine all of ingredients except duck breasts in a blender. Process to a coarse puree. Remove bones from duck breasts, leaving skin intact. Place breasts on a rack in roaster and coat each one with blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, basting often. Serves 4.

Per serving: 555 calories; 30 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 6 g sugar; 326 mg cholesterol; 787 mg sodium; 59 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Blueberry-Basil Vinegar

Use this refreshing vinegar as part of a lively vinaigrette to enhance fresh, tender greens. Combine 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, salt and pepper. From justberryrecipes.com

3 cups fresh blueberries, crushed
½ cup firmly packed torn fresh basil leaves
4 cups white vinegar
Fresh basil leaves (optional)

Combine crushed fresh blueberries and ½ cup torn basil in a large, sterilized, wide-mouthed jar and set aside.

Place vinegar in a medium nonaluminum saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot vinegar over blueberry mixture; cover jar, and let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks. Yield: 4 cups (serving size: 1 tablespoon).

Per serving: 4 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 1 g carbohydrates; 0.5 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 0.4 mg sodium; 0 g protein; 0.2 g fiber.

Blueberry Basil Balsamic Mozzarella Crisps

Recipe from halfbakedharvest.com

1 pint blueberries
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ lemon, juiced
2 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 ½ tablespoon canned coconut milk or heavy cream
½ tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
½ of a whole-grain baguette, sliced into 12 half inch thick slices
Salt and pepper, for sprinkling
Shredded basil and lemon zest for garnish

Preheat grill to high heat or preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, cook the blueberries, honey, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and basil over high heat, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and the blueberries burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the blueberries cook, mix together the mozzarella cheese, coconut milk or heavy cream and the ½ tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or toast the baguette slices in the oven on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes. Flip and top with a dollop of the cheese/milk/olive oil mixture and grill or bake until the cheese melts, about three minutes.

Immediately top with the blueberries and a sprinkle of fresh basil and a grate of lemon zest if desired. Makes 12 toasts.

Per serving: 129 calories; 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 28 percent calories from fat); 19 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 8 mg cholesterol; 164 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber.

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce

Recipe from blueberrycouncil.org. The perfect complement to juicy, savory meat is a sauce made of sweet and tangy fruit. In this Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce, caramelized onions, frozen blueberries and balsamic vinegar cook down to a beautiful concentrate that brings out the pork’s mild flavor.

1 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, sliced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup port wine or sweet sherry
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes

Preheat broiler. Broil pork, turning occasionally, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove to a platter, cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter; add onions, salt and pepper. Cook until onions are golden, about 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook until onions are caramelized, 3 minutes longer. Add port, balsamic, blueberries and tomatoes, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Thinly slice pork and serve with sauce. Serves 4.

Per serving: 304 calories; 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 33 percent calories from fat); 22 g carbohydrates; 12 g sugar; 88 mg cholesterol; 412 mg sodium; 27 g protein; 3 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com

The coconut or heavy cream used in Blueberry Mozzarella Crisps is balanced ... (halfbakedharvest.com)
Blueberries and cream cheese are at the heart of Blueberry Danish. (Taste of Home)
Caramelized onions, fresh or frozen blueberries and balsamic vinegar ... (Blueberry Council)