Blueberries are one of the fruits that you get to enjoy all year round. They also grow wildly thus you are not limited to where to find them.
Blueberries offer a refreshing, tangy twist on smoothies and baked products too. Don’t judge them by their size as these little fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
- Blueberries have many benefits. Some well-known ones include:
- Antioxidant properties which help to reduce the effects of free radicals on the body.
- Blueberries are loaded with vitamin C and B which facilitate healthy skin and hair.
- They are energy giving fruits with low calories.
- Blueberries have high fiber content which promotes healthy digestive system and aids in weight management.
How to Use Blueberries
- Eat whole. Stain your teeth by munching on as many blueberries as you can. They are an energy booster.
- In smoothies. Besides imparting flavor, blueberries will add color to otherwise plain smoothies.
- In breakfast. Add blueberries in cereals or yogurt.
- In baking cookies, muffins, cakes, pies, tarts or crumble.
- As toppings for desserts. Scoop a handful of blueberries on to pancakes and pour some syrup for a hearty treat.
- In sauces. Blueberries are used in preparing chutneys and hot sauces too.
- In preserves. Blueberry jam adds a tangy, sweet contrast on toast, hot biscuits, muffins and scones.
- In compotes.
- In fermented drinks.
Like other fruits, blueberries have a shelf life. It can be short or long, depending on the storage conditions.
How Best to Store Blueberries to Increase their Shelf Life
The shelf life of blueberries sorely depends on how you store them. It is also easier to tell how long they will last based on how fresh they were when you first bought or picked them.
Depending on how many you have in stock, there are several ways in which you can increase the shelf life of blueberries.
If you intend to use them as soon as possible, you can leave them whole in the counter for 2 days at most. Ensure they are stored in a well aerated place.
For longer storage, use any of the following preservation methods:
Blueberries will keep well in the refrigerator, but in certain suitable conditions. Avoid placing them inside the crisper drawer. Such enclosed spaces prevent optimum air circulation, which can lead to faster rotting.
Use airtight bags or containers. Thoroughly inspect the berries. Remove any which looks squashed or blemished.
Avoid washing before long-term storage, or if need be, ensure you blot the berries dry without leaving any moisture.
Mold will grow on the berries if they get exposed to moisture. Well refrigerated blueberries will keep for up to 10 days.
Sometimes you may encounter an abundance of foods and wonder how to use them.
Freezing comes in handy when you want to use items in the future. Blueberries are easy to freeze.
Under the right freezing conditions, they can keep well for approximately 8 months. The key to effective freezing is to maintain a controlled temperature.
Fluctuating temperatures can cause changes in the composition of fruit and alter the taste.
Another crucial aspect of freezing blueberries is to pre-freeze. This involves spreading the berries on a tray and placing them in the freezer for roughly 2 hours.
This minimizes mushing when stored together. You can then transfer them into freezer bags and freeze.
A more detailed storage technique is to preserve the blueberries through canning. This process helps to retain flavors and extend the shelf life of blueberries too.
Canning is not technical and you can easily execute it at home.
You may have varied canning recipes, but the usual ingredients include sugar/sweetener; water; acid agent like lemon; fruits and storage containers.
Ensure that the berries are well cleaned and sorted before canning. Any blemished berry that finds its way in the canning containers will affect the end results.
Fill your mason jars with the fruit and prepare syrup by boiling the other ingredients. When hot, pour the syrup over the fruit, seal and place in a hot water bath or canning tool if you have one.
This is a crucial step before cooling the canned fruits. Never alter the ratios of ingredients as you may mess the entire process.
Well canned blueberries keep well for more than a year, approximately 1.5 years. Prolonged storage can alter their state and become undesirable.
One of the best ways of increasing the shelf life of food items is to dry them out. It is an ancient technique passed over generations.
Sucking out moisture from food items mitigates enzyme reactions and bacteria growth which cause decaying. You can use an oven, a dehydrator or natural sunlight.
The duration for dehydrating will be different depending on which method you use. You can opt to blanch the berries first before drying.
Dried blueberries tend to have a concentrated taste. Well dried blueberries can be stored at room temperature or frozen as well. They normally last for a whole year.
A great storage hack for extending the life of blueberries is to puree them and store in dry sugar pack. Ensure the berries are well cleaned before placing them in storage containers.
Mix them with sugar and freeze well. It is best to store the berries in small batches.
Pureed berries are excellent in smoothies. You don’t have to thaw them, just remove from the freezer and add into the blender.
A surefire way of enjoying fresh fruits is to make fruit preserves such as jam. Blueberries burst with zest and flavor and what better way to enjoy them than in a jam?
Preparing jam is a great way to retain flavor. You also do not need many ingredients. For blueberry jam, you only need sugar, lemon zest and berries.
For optimal flavor, soak the berries in sugar and leave them overnight before boiling. You can always adjust the taste by adding more sugar to your liking.
Who ever thought that blueberries can be pickled? Well, there is nothing new under the sun.
Pickled blueberries are quite common with different variations of preparing them.
The simplest method is to mix all the ingredients in mason jars and leave them overnight. Ingredients commonly used include vinegar and sugar.
You can always make yours unique by adding spices, herbs or even vegetables. Well pickled blueberries can last a year.
How to Identify Spoilage
An off, sour odor is always an indication of spoilage. Discard smelly blueberries as the scent can attract pests.
Fresh blueberries have a firm texture. Mushy flesh in blueberries may not mean that they are rotten. They could be overripe and thus should be used immediately.
Unusual discoloration on the flesh or skin could mean there is mold, thus it is safer to discard such berries away.
Blemished skin paves way for contaminants and bacterial growth. Such berries have a short shelf life.
A clear sign of rotting is slimy, thick and gel-like pulp. Discard such berries to prevent food poisoning.
Blueberries are versatile and especially popular in baking. The key to enjoying their benefits is by understanding how long they last and look for the best storage techniques to prolong their shelf life.