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posted: 7/23/2014 6:00 AM

Fresh approaches to fresh blueberries

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  • Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries; use them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.

      Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries; use them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.
    Associated Press

  • Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries by using them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.

      Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries by using them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.
    Associated Press

  • Try fresh blueberries in a topping for brie.

      Try fresh blueberries in a topping for brie.
    Associated Press

  • Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries; use them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.

      Take a fresh approach to the season's best blueberries; use them in salsa or in a sandwich spread.
    Associated Press

  • A sprinkle of cinnamon and some fresh cream brighten a bowl of fresh blueberries.

      A sprinkle of cinnamon and some fresh cream brighten a bowl of fresh blueberries.
    Associated Press

 
By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press

There are muffins, of course. And pancakes. And the obligatory fruit salad. But then what? After all the usual suspects, how do you handle a seasonal abundance of blueberries?

As long as you're willing to consider a few fresh approaches, it's actually easy and delicious to press them into service. Start by ditching the idea that they only work in sweets. The juicy, slightly acidic berries work wonders with meat. In fact, the Native Americans used blueberries to season dried meats.

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But first, a few storage tips. Blueberries keep best when stored dry. In other words, wash them only as you use them. Until then, keep them lightly covered and refrigerated. If you freeze them, the flavor will be fine, but the texture will be different. So once frozen, it's best to use them only in recipes that involve cooking them.

To freeze blueberries, wash them, then spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Gently dry them with paper towels, then freeze them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Once frozen, the berries can be bagged.

Vinaigrette: Add a handful of blueberries to a blender with a 3:1 ratio of oil and vinegar (balsamic or red wine would be good), as well as a hit of salt and pepper. Blend until mostly smooth.

Sweet and chilly snack: Follow the method above for freezing, but instead of drying the washed berries, roll them in coarse sugar, then freeze. Eat them as is for a sweet treat.

Compote: Saute 1 finely diced yellow onion in a bit of butter. Add 1 cup blueberries, a bit of grated fresh ginger and a splash of hot sauce. Simmer until the berries pop, reduce and begin to thicken. Season with ample black pepper and a pinch of salt and ground cumin. Spoon over grilled pork chops or pork tenderloin.

Creamed: Mound fresh berries in a bowl, then drizzle with heavy cream. Follow that by a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Cordial: Bring 1 cup of blueberries and ½ cup sugar to a simmer and cook until the berries are broken down and thickened. Strain through a mesh strainer, discarding any solids. Divide the mixture between 4 tumblers. Add ice, then top with vodka or gin.

Grain salad: Toss fresh blueberries with cooked and cooled quinoa or farro, diced cucumber, fresh mint and minced red onion. Drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette and top with slivered almonds.

Cornbread: Add blueberries to your favorite savory cornbread recipe.

Spread: Mix together ¼ cup slightly mashed blueberries, chopped scallions and about ½ cup mayonnaise. Use as a sandwich spread for a grilled chicken wrap.

Cheese topper: Simmer 1 cup blueberries with 1 tablespoon sugar and a dash of hot sauce. When the blueberries have broken down and thickened, pour over a room temperature round of brie. Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

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