It’s June, which means one thing… it’s blueberry season! I was lucky enough to grow up in the best place for fresh, plump blueberries, New Jersey! South Jersey had ideal conditions for growing blueberries all because of the sandy, acidic soil. The pine barrens (they’re a pretty cool place and the home to the infamous Jersey Devil) is to thank for the acidic soil that blueberries love so much. When the pine needles fall, they help to make the blueberry bushes extra happy!
As a kid, I had the pleasure of going blueberry picking every summer with my family. We’d collect 5 gallon buckets loaded with fat little berries. Once we got home, we’d wash and freeze them so we had ripe fruit to last until the next summer. This is a tradition I kept alive with my kids. Now we’re lucky to have some of those amazing Jersey blueberry bushes in our own backyard so the second they ripen, we can enjoy them right off the bush. (If the birds don’t get them first!)
If you’re going to head out to the fields and pick your own berries this year, pick extra so you, too, can enjoy for months to come. Here are a few quick steps for prepping and preserving.
- Sort your berries by picking out any unripe fruit and removing remaining stems.
- Thoroughly wash the berries by placing them in a colander and rinsing with cold water.
- Spread the berries on a towel and gently pat dry. (Ripe blueberries are very delicate so be gentle.)
- Place the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm.
- Remove from the freezer and place in a heavy duty zip top freezer bag. Remove all of the air and seal tightly to prevent freezer burn.
- Lay flat in the freeze and store until needed. The berries can be safely stored in the freezer for up to a year, but we don’t think they’ll last that long! Frozen berries are fantastic in smoothies, muffins, pancakes, pies, and cobblers.
Jams & Jellies
Making your own jellies and jams might sound intimidating, but once you try it you’ll never turn back! (Kind of like the difference between homemade hummus and store bought.) The benefit of turning some of your fresh fruit into jellies and jams, besides the amazing flavor, is that they’ll last almost indefinitely if preserved correctly.
Although blueberries naturally contain some pectin, we really love recipes that include lemon juice or zest. Not only does it give your jam a nice citrus twist, lemons are super high in pectin so it helps your jam to set up. Thisrecipe is quick and easy with just 3 ingredients.
We’d be remiss without a reminder that preserving food does take special care and attention to maintain safety. And who do you go to when you need information about safe canning? The experts, of course! Check out thisguide to preserving from Ball.
Sauces & Syrups
Sauces and syrups, much like jams and jellies, are a fantastic way to use up extra berries. They last a long time when preserved correctly (see the link to Ball’s preserving guide above) and taste delicious! Sauces and syrups make meals extra special. Try pouring blueberry sauce andtahini all over French Toast, pancakes, or ice cream. We really enjoy thisblueberry sauce recipe from Pint Sized Baker, and she has even more blueberry ideas on herInstagram so check it out!
Now that you’ve got some ideas for how to use the round little gems, get out to your local farmers market, blueberry farm, or CSA and load up your kitchen!
Some of all time favorite blueberry recipes: