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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Local Blueberry Season Passing Its Peak

Blueberries have grown abundantly in the area this summer, and that’s a good thing, because there is always a high demand for the succulent,  healthy berries that many of us anticipate each year. 

There’s so much that can be done with blueberries — eaten by the handful, thrown fresh into cobblers, pies, muffins and other concoctions, frozen in their natural state or transformed into pie filling to preserve for later use. And, I’m sure, there are other ideas for which they can be enjoyed.

While we still can, let’s share a few ways to use one of our favorite seasonal treats. We will miss them when they’re gone! And, hopefully, you will learn something, just as I have done, by reading a few interesting tidbits about the blueberry.

Blueberry Facts

  • The North Carolina blueberry crop had a production value of $55 million in 2021, ranking in the top 10 nationally.
  • The two main species  are highbush (southern and northern) and rabbiteye. In the coastal plain, southern highbush varieties are low-chill types that are ready to be harvested early in the season. Rabbiteye varieties are better adapted to Piedmont soils and ripen later  in the season. In the mountains, only northern highbush types are reliably cold-hardy at higher elevations.
  • North Carolina is primarily a fresh-market producer (75% of the crop). Harvest begins in early to mid-May and continues through July. Fresh prices decline over time, so volume is stacked early in the season with most of the crop picked in late May and early June. 
  • Blueberry plants usually take six to eight years to reach full production. Yields increase most rapidly in years 3-5, then plateau as the bushes reach year 7-8. Years 7-15 are the most productive, then yield begins to decline.
  • Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C, in addition to vitamin A, iron, potassium and magnesium. Blueberries are also a good source of carbohydrates and fiber. Discover more blueberry health benefits.
  • Blueberries are pollinator dependent! A pollinating insect must visit each flower, or a berry will not form.

Information provided by NC State Extension, NC State University

Creamy Blueberry Dip

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

 ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk

 ½ cup powdered sugar

1 ½ cup blueberries

1 tsp. lemon juice

 ½ tsp. vanilla

With mixer, blend powdered sugar and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add in condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until smooth. Fold in 1¼ cup blueberries. Refrigerate for a couple hours, at least, before serving, at which time you can add the remaining berries to the top. Great with other fruit, graham crackers, etc. 

Granny’s Blueberry Crumble

Filling:

About 2 pints fresh blueberries

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice 

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

Pinch of salt

Topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 

1/4 cup brown sugar

 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 tsp. sea salt

1 stick melted butter 

Heat oven to 375 F. In medium bowl, mix blueberries, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. flour, 3 Tbsp. sugar and pinch of salt; spoon into a lightly greased 9-inch pie dish or a 2-quart baking dish. Combine remaining flour, oats, sugar and salt in same bowl. Add melted butter; stir until crumbly.

Sprinkle over blueberry filling. 

Bake about 30 minutes until juices are thickened and topping is lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Blueberry Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

½  tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1/3 cup  butter, softened 

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1/3 cup blueberries 

½ cup white chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In separate small bowl, cream  butter and sugar until fluffy; add in the blueberries. mix until fully incorporated. Gradually add in the flour mixture, and mix until a soft dough forms. Mix in white chocolate chips.

Transfer dough to freezer to cool for 30 minutes. Once dough is chilled, cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape dough into 12 balls and bake for 10 minutes until edges are lightly brown. Set aside to cool before serving.

Blueberry Lush

About 9 Graham Crackers 

1 cup chopped pecans

½  cup butter or margarine melted

2 Tbsp. sugar

8 oz. cream cheese well softened

1 cup powdered sugar

16 oz. whipped topping

2 cans blueberry pie filling 

2 Tbsp. chopped pecans for garnish 

Preheat oven to 350°F. In food processor, blend Graham crackers and pecans until finely chopped. Stir in butter and sugar until well mixed;  press into bottom of a 9 x 13–inch baking dish or pan. 

Bake for about 8 minutes; let cool completely.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Fold in half the whipped topping; spread mixture over crust.

Spread evenly with blueberry pie filling. Cover with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with chopped pecans, if desired. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.