Blueberries: Those sapphire blue jewels of summer

Big nutrition in a small package.

Blueberries are the blue sapphires of summer. They vary in color from purple-blue to blue-black. The silvery sheen on the berries is called the bloom.

Although small in size, they are a powerhouse of nutrition. A one cup serving only contains 80 calories. Blueberries have only 0.5 gram of fat. Blueberries contain 3.6 grams of fiber per serving. Blueberries are also excellent sources of Vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants.

Michigan grown blueberries are available during July and August.

When preparing fresh blueberries Michigan State University Extension recommends that you wash your hands. The fresh produce needs to be rinsed well with lukewarm water before any further preparation takes place.

Are you looking to have some of these sapphire jewels in the winter? Why not freeze them?

Select only berries that are uniform in color and free of blemishes.

To freeze the blueberries, they can be done in either a syrup pack or a dry pack.

The syrup pack is designed to help the blueberries keep their flavor, color, and shape. For freezing blueberries 50 percent syrup is desired. Dissolve one cup of sugar in one cup of water. The syrup needs to be cooled before covering the berries. Put the washed blueberries in a rigid container. Pour the cold syrup over the berries leaving a half of an inch headspace. Label the container and put it in the freezer.

Maybe you prefer a dry pack blueberry where you can shake out only the number of berries you want. If you choose a dry pack method, DO NOT wash the berries before freezing. With this method, if you wash the berries before freezing them the skin will toughen. Place the berries on a tray in the freezer. When they are frozen, put them in rigid containers or plastic bags. This technique will allow you to shake out only the amount of berries you desire.

To can blueberries syrup is necessary. Prepare the syrup ahead of time whether it is light syrup which is a half cup dissolved in four cups of water or a heavy syrup, which is 2 ¾ cups of sugar dissolved in four cups of water.

There are two types of pack for canning blueberries.

For the hot pack, heat the blueberries in boiling water for 30 seconds and drain. Then put the hot blueberries in the hot jars and cover with a hot liquid. Fill the jar with hot liquid, leaving a half inch head space. Remove the air bubbles. Wipe the rims and adjust the lids. Process the blueberries in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes for pints and quarts if you live at 0-1000 feet above sea level. If you live 1001-3000 feet above sea level, the process time is 20 minutes.

For the raw pack, put the blueberries into a hot clean jar. Cover the berries with hot syrup, juice, or water leaving a half inch headspace. Remove the air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids. Process the blueberries in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes for pints, if you are at 0-1000 feet above sea level. For quarts it is necessary, to process 20 minutes. If you live 1001-3000 feet above sea level, process the pints for 20 minutes and the quarts for 25 minutes.

Whether you choose to eat them fresh or preserved, enjoy the blue sapphires of summer. For further information contact the local county Michigan State University Extension office.  To contact an expert in your area, visit the website, or call 888-MSUE4MI, (888-678-3464).

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