At U-pick blueberry farms around the state — there are about two dozen in the Tampa Bay area — it's once again time to revel in the bounty of fresh local berries. But if you're anything like me, after a few weeks you're ready for something more interesting than a handful scattered over your morning cereal. Baked goods are my default — and who doesn't love blueberry crumb cake? — but those fresh-baked delicacies tend to undermine the healthy intentions I had in bringing berries home in the first place.
The U-pick season is fleeting, just a few weeks and then the fields are closed. If picking isn't your thing, there are lots of local farms that have done the work for you, and you can buy them at the source. Plus, prices for local blueberries vary at grocery stores and outdoor markets. Price is best, though, if you do the work yourself — you'll pay about $3.50 a pound.
Here's an A to Z list of ways to use your local harvest when muffins lose their luster. (And check out blueberry buckle and spiced Blueberry Grunt recipes.)
Arugula with blue cheese and blueberries: Toss with a white balsamic reduction or your favorite vinaigrette.
Blintzes: Mix blueberries, water and sugar to taste and microwave until boiling, watching for boil-over. Serve over blintzes (we find the Golden brand frozen ones perfectly acceptable) for an elegant, effortless Sunday brunch dish.
Chilled soup: Edith Richardson's version at allrecipes.com has just five ingredients and a five-minute prep time.
Dip: Blend blueberries with cream cheese or mascarpone and spread on whole-wheat crackers or Melba toast.
Extra-special applesauce: Toss 2 cups of blueberries into homemade applesauce as it cooks, or blend with store-bought. Strain with a sieve if you don't like the texture of the skins.
Frozen treat: Wash the berries, then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Transfer to a sealed container when frozen solid and eat out of hand, in smoothies or as an ice cream topping.
Grape, Blueberry and Apricot Compote: This recipe from Gourmet magazine combines white wine, nutmeg and lime zest for a sophisticated sundae topping.
Ham glaze: This one comes from my husband's seventh-grade class project, a cranberry and blueberry cookbook. Many of the recipes are dated and somewhat bizarre, but once I eliminated those that require a mold, paraffin or Angostura bitters, I found some keepers. For the glaze, thaw 1 ½ cups of frozen blueberries and drain, reserving liquid, topping up with water if needed to make ½ cup. Combine a tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a saucepan and add liquid, then boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in blueberries, then cool before basting ham.
Ice cream with port-blueberry sauce: Mix ruby or tawny port with light brown sugar and grated lemon peel over medium heat until sugar dissolves, reduce heat and stir in a cup of berries. Serve over vanilla ice cream in stemmed dessert glasses.
Johnnycakes: Made with cornmeal and flour, johnnycakes can be cooked like pancakes or poured into a baking pan like corn bread. Bon Appétit's version takes the latter path, topping it with warm maple syrup before serving.
Kiwi-blueberry fruit salad: With more vitamin C than oranges, kiwifruit adds to blueberries' nutritional punch. Serve the mixture over waffles, on yogurt or on its own.
Lemon curd tart: Emeril Lagasse's recipe is lovely, right down to the scratch-made lemon curd. I wouldn't feel the slightest bit bad about using the jarred stuff, though. Spread it on a prepared tart shell, top with fresh blueberries and a dollop of whipped cream, and you're done.
Mango smoothie: Mango's assertive flavor complements blueberries, and the color can't be beat. Blend with a banana, ice and milk or yogurt, or freeze the fruit first and skip the ice for a rich milkshake consistency.
Noodle kugel: Kosher cooking sites all over the Web have fruit-studded versions of this satisfying baked noodle pudding. I like the chefs.com version, which adds cream cheese to sour cream and cottage cheese for a dairy trifecta.
Orzo salad: Toss cooked, cooled orzo with citrus vinaigrette, pecans, blueberries and feta cheese. Enjoy as a side dish or top with chicken or shrimp to serve as an entree.
Pudding: Another selection from the seventh-grade cookbook: Butter six slices of bread and sprinkle with cinnamon, then layer in a loaf pan with three cups of blueberries mixed with ¾ cup of sugar and ½ cup of water. Chill for several hours before slicing and serving. If this recipe seems a bit spare to you, try the richer Blueberry Breakfast Casserole at the Florida Agriculture blog, freshfromflorida.wordpress.com.
Quiche: The organic-cooking blog Gettin' Fresh (getfreshinthekitchen.blogspot.com) recounts how a blueberry quiche evolved from the accidental purchase of vanilla yogurt for a quiche recipe. Hey, chocolate chip cookies were an accident, too.
Ricotta and blueberries on half of a toasted oat-bran pita: Consider the midmorning blahs banished.
Salmon with mango-blueberry salsa: From spa-cuisine powerhouse Canyon Ranch Resort comes a simple recipe that mixes sweet and savory and gets some kick from minced jalapenos.
Trout with arugula and blueberries: Chef Marc Meyer of the New York brunch mainstay Five Points tops this substantial salad with smoked trout, fresh mint leaves and white balsamic vinegar. You'll find it — and blueberry recipes hailing from Gramercy Tavern to the United Nations Delegates Dining Room — at blueberrycouncil.com.
Upside-down cake: Why should pineapples have all the fun? Also known as pouding aux bleuets, this dish from a food.com recipe is lovely to look at and easy to make.
Vodka blueberry liqueur: This has to age for two months, but with just three ingredients (sugar, vodka and blueberries) it takes minutes to assemble, and the finished product looks gorgeous in a cordial glass. Find directions at allrecipes.com.
Wild rice with fresh blueberries and roasted butternut squash: Topped with shredded chicken — or not — this dish packs fiber, antioxidants and vitamins A and C into a colorful entree.
Xiang jiao parfait: Xiang jiao is Chinese for banana. Is that alphabet cheating? Probably, but at least you learned something. Slice bananas and layer with blueberries, granola and Greek yogurt, then drizzle with honey for a satisfying breakfast.
Yogurt and blueberry coffee cake: A cup of blueberry or vanilla yogurt makes this cake, topped with streusel and sliced almonds, a moist crumb. It uses whole wheat pastry flour and white flour — plus 2 cups of blueberries — for a healthier twist on crumb cake. The recipe is from Whole Foods Market.
Zesty chutney: Country Living magazine's recipe pairs fresh blueberries with tarragon, balsamic vinegar and cardamom for a versatile sauce that works with pork or poultry.
Alisson Clark is a freelance writer who teaches feature writing at the University of Florida.
>> BLUEBERRY U-PICK FARMS
Just a few weeks left
There are U-pick blueberry farms in Hillsborough, Citrus, Manatee, Pasco and Hernando counties. The website pickyourown.org/FLwest.htm has a comprehensive list. Many of the farms also grow other produce.
It's best to call ahead to check on hours and availability, but if you want to go, go soon. There might be only a few more weeks in the season. Some farms sell containers of picked berries, too. Bring cash just to be safe.
Here is a sample of farms:
• Alpha Growers Blueberries, 5615 W.O. Griffin Road, Plant City; (813) 245-6818. Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
• Stafford's U-Pick Blueberries, 3111 John Moore Road, Brandon; (813) 340-4382. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
• Barventa Farms, 6633 Simmons Loop, Riverview; (813) 672-1371 or barventafarms.net. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
• Blueyouth Berries, 8201 Cosme Road, Odessa; (813) 215-2237 or blueyouthberies.com. Open 8 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays.
• D&K U-Pick Blueberry Farm, 4234 Brackwood Road, Seffner; (813) 802-0406. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
• Frosty Blue Farms, 1907 Streetman Drive, Lithia; (813) 689-7703. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
• Glover's Blueberries, 4612 S Calhoun Road, Plant City; (813) 763-0399. Open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.
• Misty Meadows Blueberry Farm, 8801 E Greys Lane, Inverness; (352) 726-7907 or mistymeadowsblueberryfarm.com. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
• Hydro-Taste Farms, 7308 Verna Bethany Road, Myakka City; (941) 322-0429. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
• Cheri's Berries, Pigeon Road, Hudson; (727) 798-8016. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. (Look for the sign to lead the way, they say.)
• Owen's Blueberry Farm, 12839 Kitten Trail, Hudson; (727) 868-7249. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
• Ergle Farm, 3325 Treiman Blvd., Dade City; (352) 346-2745. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
• Patriot Acres Blueberry Farm, 3441 Treiman Blvd., Ridge Manor; (813) 843-4030. Open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
• Brooksville Ridge Blueberries, 1172 Hancock Lake Road, Brooksville; (352) 544-5859. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday only.
• Butch's Blueberries, 5361 White Road, Brooksville; (352) 238-3060. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
• Circle M Farm, 26180 Atlantis Lane, Brooksville; (813) 629-0663. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
• Spring Lake Blueberry Farm, 25688 Powell Road, Brooksville; (352) 232-1523. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.
• JG Ranch, 17200 Wiscon Road, Brooksville; (352) 799-0556. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.
• D&S Blueberry Farms, 19125 Phillips Road, Masaryktown; (352) 796-1049. Call for hours and days.
Chilled Blueberry Soup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 3/4 cups water
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (6-ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add blueberries and cinnamon stick; return to a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in orange juice concentrate until melted. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Discard cinnamon stick. Garnish with sour cream if desired.
Grape, Blueberry and Apricot Compote
1/4 cup white grape juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon honey
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup picked over blueberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced thin
1 cup green seedless grapes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
In a saucepan combine grape juice, wine, 1/4 cup water, honey, vanilla bean and nutmeg and boil the mixture for 2 minutes. Add the blueberries and the apricots and simmer the mixture for 1 minute. Add the grapes and simmer the mixture for 2 minutes.
Transfer the fruit with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Remove the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the syrup and boil the syrup for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is thickened slightly. Stir in lime juice and lime zest and pour the syrup over the fruit.
Chill the compote, covered, for at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve with ice cream if desired.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
Blueberry Johnnycake Bake
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (stick) chilled butter, diced
1 1/2 cups milk
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh blueberries
Warm maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter bottom of 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Mix first 5 ingredients in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat milk and eggs in large bowl to blend. Stir in cornmeal mixture. Mix in blueberries. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake until tester inserted into center of corn bread comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cut into large squares and serve warm with maple syrup.
Source: Bon Appétit
Lemon Curd Tart
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
3 large eggs, beaten
1 prepared 8-inch tart shell, blind-baked
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
1 cup sweetened whipped cream, optional accompaniment
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, cook the sugar, lemon juice, butter, lemon zest and eggs, whisking frequently, until a custard forms and bubbles appear on surface, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.
Spoon the lemon curd into the prepared tart shell, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. Arrange the berries in a decorative pattern over the top, and serve with whipped cream on the side, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Food Network
Blueberry Cream Cheese Noodle Kugel
1 pound wide egg noodles
1 cup granulated sugar
2 pounds cottage cheese, divided
1 cup dried blueberries
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar mixed together with 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch glass baking pan with butter; set aside.
Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain noodles and pour into a large mixing bowl together with sugar, 1 pound cottage cheese and the dried blueberries.
In the container of a blender, pour the remaining 1 pound cottage cheese, eggs, sour cream, cream cheese, salt, milk and vanilla extract. Blend mixture until it is the consistency of pancake batter.
Pour batter over the noodle mixture and stir gently to combine.
Place the greased baking pan in the oven for 2 minutes to brown butter. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour in kugel mixture. Press down on noodles a bit so that the batter covers them. Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mixture over top of noodles.
Bake for approximately 60 minutes until slightly firm and the top is golden brown. (Kugel will firm up some more as it cools.) Allow kugel to cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve.
Serves 10 to 12.
Salmon With Blueberry Mango Salsa
Blueberry mango salsa:
1/3 cup diced mango
1/3 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon minced jalapenos
2 teaspoons cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 (4-ounce) salmon fillets
Pinch sea salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for blueberry mango salsa. Lightly crush with a fork to release juices. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper and sear for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until salmon is cooked through.
Serve each salmon fillet with ¼ cup of blueberry mango salsa.
Source: Canyon Ranch Resort
Yogurt and Blueberry Coffee Cake
Nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, divided
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt or blueberry yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen, thawed and drained blueberries, divided
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray; set aside. Put 2 tablespoons of the whole wheat pastry flour, light brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and cardamom in a medium bowl and mix together with a fork or your fingers until well combined and mixture is in large clumps; set streusel aside.
Put remaining 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, vanilla and eggs then pour into bowl with dry ingredients and stir until combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of the blueberries.
Spoon batter into prepared pan and sprinkle reserved streusel over the top. Scatter remaining 1 cup blueberries over the streusel then top with almonds and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Once cooled, loosen edges of cake and transfer to a plate. Cut into slices and serve.
Serves 10 to 12.
Source: Whole Foods Market
1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 orange (including rind), cut into thin strips and seeded
4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a large, nonstick saucepan over high heat, cook shallots and garlic for 1 minute. Add orange, blueberries, vinegar, sugar, tarragon, red pepper, cardamom and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 50 minutes. Pour chutney into a pint jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Serves 2 cups.
Source: Country Living
Blueberry Upside-Down Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon, rind of, grated
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8- by 8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar; add egg, beating well. Stir in molasses. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk.
For topping, mix butter, sugar, lemon rind and corn syrup and pour evenly into prepared pan; add berries. Pour batter over berries and bake for about 1 hour.
Remove from oven, cool slightly, and turn upside down over a serving plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.
Serves 6 to 8.