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Low in fat and packed with nutrition, July is National Blueberry Month

Jul. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BURGAW, N.C. -- There was a "blue wave" over this historic North Carolina town in late June as an abundance of fresh local blueberries was available at the 10th annual North Carolina Blueberry Festival.

More than 100 craft and food vendors, car and truck show, antique show and sales, children's activities, live entertainment, food and more were featured. Delicious blueberry baked treats were also offered by area churches.

An annual recipe contest with blueberries as the main ingredient is also conducted at the annual event. The prepared dish is brought to the event for judging and the winning recipes are entered into the "Best of the Blues" cookbook.

Proceeds from the festival are used to provide scholarships to students who are from New Hanover, Pender, Sampson, Bladen and Duplin counties in southeastern North Carolina where blueberries are predominantly grown, according to Olivia Dawson, festival coordinator.

When purchasing, the fruit should be firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned, with a silvery surface bloom and no leaves or stems. They should also be deep purple-blue to blue-black.

It's no wonder the blueberry has its own month - July is National Blueberry Month. Not only are blueberries sweet, they are low in fat and jam-packed with good nutrition. In fact, one cup contains 80 fat-free calories. They are a good source of vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber, contributing to heart health and good cholesterol, according to www.blueberry.org.

Fresh blueberries are mostly abundant during the summer months, but can be found year-round, along with frozen, canned and dried. This berry can be made into pies, pancakes, salads, sauces or eaten as is with no peeling, pitting or slicing necessary.

In observation of July's celebration of National Blueberry Month, these recipes are taken from "Topsail Advertiser:"

BLUEBERRY JELLO-SALAD

1 (5-ounce) can crushed pineapple

2 (3-ounce) packages lemon jello

1 cup boiling water

1 (6-ounce) can pineapple juice

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Drain crushed pineapple; reserve juice. In medium bowl, combine gelatin and boiling water; stir to dissolve. Add reserved juice and pineapple juice, refrigerate 45 minutes or until gelatin is soft-set. Stir in drained pineapple and blueberries; pour into 13- by 9- by 2-inch dish. Chill until firm. In medium bowl, with electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add sour cream and vanilla, mix well. Spread evenly over gelatin; sprinkle with chopped pecans over top. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

BLUEBERRY SALSA

1 red bell pepper, cut into small pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small pieces

1 small jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into small pieces

1 small Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, optional

2 pints fresh blueberries

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

In large clear glass salad bowl, toss together first six ingredients. In large measuring cup, combine three juices, pour over pepper mixture. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours, stir and serve.

This recipe by Marybeth Krynicki of Burgaw submitted to "Best of the Blues N.C. Blueberry Festival Cookbook, 2006" is from "Pender-Topsail Post & Voice:"

BLUEBERRY PIZZA

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup margarine

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Filling:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 (8-ounce) container whipped topping

Topping:

1 pint fresh blueberries

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons pecans, finely chopped

Mix three crust ingredients well. Press evenly into pizza pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20 minutes. Combine cream cheese and sugar. Beat until smooth. Reserve 1/4 cup whipped topping to spread on top of cooled crust. Fold in remaining whipped topping. Combine blueberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in medium saucepan. Gently boil over low-medium heat 15 minutes. Combine cornstarch and three tablespoons water. Stir well; add to fruit mixture, stirring constantly until thick. Cool; spread over top of filling. Decorate with 1/4 teaspoon filling, top with chopped pecans and extra blueberries to look like pizza.

These two recipes are from "Taste of the South:"

BLUEBERRY CRISP

6 cups fresh blueberries

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

Zest and juice of one lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into ?-inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, lemon zest and juice and cinnamon, stirring to combine. Transfer mixture to three-quart baking dish; set aside. To work bowl of food processor, add remaining 1/2 cup flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and next five ingredients. Pulse on high speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Fold in sliced almonds. Sprinkle over blueberries. Bake until topping is golden brown and filling is thick and bubbly, approximately 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

POUND CAKE WITH BERRIES AND NECTARINES

3 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

11/2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

4 cups sliced fresh nectarines

1 cup fresh blackberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons almond-flavored liqueur

1 teaspoon orange zest

Sweetened whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. In medium bowl, whisk together first three ingredients. In large bowl, stir together next four ingredients. Add butter and half of egg mixture to flour mixture; beat at low speed with electric mixer until combined. Increase speed to medium-high; beat until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl; add remaining egg mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing 30 seconds after each addition. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into slices. In medium bowl, combine nectarines, all berries, honey, liqueur and orange zest. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve over pound cake slices with whipped cream.

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