Help, I’m overloaded with fresh blueberries!

Darcy asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

My neighbors went blueberry picking and brought me a large box of the biggest, sweetest blueberries I’ve ever eaten! I was wondering if you had some ideas for what I could do with them. I love blueberry muffins but whenever I’ve tried to make them at home, they always look flatter than those I see in the local food shops. I appreciate your thoughts (and I’ve loved every recipe of yours that I’ve tried!)

Lauren says…

What nice neighbors you have! My suggestion: Next time, ask to join them on their fresh blueberry picking expedition! I remember those days when Jon and I and our three kids would go blueberry picking in the heat of summer (July is peak blueberry season) and we would come home with so many blueberries (even after the kids ate several hundred) along with a gazillion blueberry stains on our hands, clothing and sneakers. It was great fun as well as educational and I highly recommend going to different fruit orchards on weekends with the kids and picking the “fruit in season.”

Fresh-picked blueberries are sturdier than those that you buy in the store since they haven’t been sitting in a market for days before you find them and make your purchase. So, when you get them home, they should stay good and firm for a week, when stored in the refrigerator in a well ventilated box or bag. And, for best texture retention, don’t rinse blueberries until just before you eat them or use them in a recipe.

Overloaded with Blueberries? Flash-FreezeThem!

Rinse berries and place on shallow baking sheet lined with doubled paper toweling. Gently pat and roll berries until dry. Remove paper towel and place sheet (uncovered) in the freezer. Once frozen, pour berries into a heavy-duty plastic bag. Place into another bag for added protection against the formation of ice crystals. To retain best texture, use berries straight from the freezer without thawing.

When searching for ways to use fresh blueberries, one easy thing to do, for breakfast, is to serve the berries in a bowl in a shallow pool of orange juice (fresh is best). Although simple, this really is a remarkably good combination.

Or, make an impromptu (free form) fruit pie!

First, make the pie dough (for a 10-inch single-crust pie). Then chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, until its firm but not too hard (1 hour). Meanwhile, preheat the oven 400F. Then, take 6 cups blueberries and toss them in a bowl with 1 to 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice mixed with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of cubed cold unsalted butter.

To set up to roll the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or place a 10 inch pie pan on your counter. Tear off two sheets of wax paper and sprinkle one piece lightly with some flour. Unwrap your chilled pastry dough and place it on the floured sheet of paper. Sprinkle the top of the pastry with some more flour and place the remaining sheet of paper on top.

Roll out the dough between the paper into a large round, between 1/8 and ¼- thick. Peel off the top sheet of paper and, using the paper that the dough is sitting on to lift it, invert the dough either onto the parchment lined baking sheet or directly into the pie pan (you can also place the pie pan into a paper lined baking sheet, which makes cleaning up easier, after baking

Now, it’s time to assemble your pie. After inverting the dough, peel off the wax paper from the top of the dough and use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour. Pile the blueberry filling into the center of the dough and pull the sides up so it creates a 1 ½ to 2-inch border, enclosing the filling but keeping it visible in the center (pleat the dough over onto itself, as you pull it up and gather it, while pressing gently to adhere).

Glaze the top border of pleated pastry by brushing it with milk or with an egg wash made by mixing 1 egg with 1 teaspoon water (then strains it to remove excess coagulation, making it easier to apply with a pastry brush). Sprinkle the glazed pastry liberally with more granulated sugar and bake the pie in the preheated 400F oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is piping hot, thickened and the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack before slicing into wedges. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

No, I didn’t forget that you asked for a muffin recipe. The reason why your muffins are on the flatter side is, mostly likely, either because the batter is too loose or the amount of leavening is “off.” Using a bleached, all-purpose flour also will help your muffins to be the most tender. Here’s a recipe for my favorite Blueberry Muffins (I make them all summer long). Remember to follow my “timing” strategy, so that you and yours can enjoy that wonderful taste and aroma even on the busiest week day morning.

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