This Meatless Monday, we feature a recipe for Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins from Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook, as well as growing, storage and preparation tips for blueberries.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins
Shannon Palmer, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook tested these recipes. She’s adapted this recipe and tested it, as well as provided the photos. You can see Shannon’s step-by-step visual instructions here.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time (20 mins)
- 1 stick of butter
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute up to half whole wheat if desired)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (see below for alternative)
- 1 – 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (I prefer 2 cups)
- If you don’t have buttermilk, try the following substitute: put 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make up 1 cup. Let stand 5-10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Melt butter on stovetop on low heat or in microwave (chop up and microwave for 30 sec-1 min).
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Mixing too much will cause your muffins to be tough. Fold in berries.
- Ladle batter into well-greased muffin tins, filling each about halfway full.
- Bake 18-20 minutes, until nicely browned. Serve warm.
Unlike so many other fruits, blueberries are native to North America. Different varieties of the plant, including bilberries, have grown in Europe and beyond, and there are countless names given to fruits in the blueberry family. For centuries, blueberries grew only in the wild. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that farmers began to selectively breed the berries. In parts of Maine, wild blueberries still constitute a major harvest, but the small wild berries are not as popular as their larger, cultivated relatives. Highbush blueberries are now a common addition to home gardens. Not only are the shrubs producers of tasty fruit, but they also turn bright red in the fall and are an attractive backyard addition.
If you are just starting out on a blueberry-growing expedition, start by purchasing some shrubs for your local nursery—do not attempt to grow the plants from seed. Blueberries appreciate full sunlight, some shelter from the wind, and rich, well-drained, acidic soil. To get your planting site ready, add plenty of organic matter such as peat moss (which will also increase the acidity) or compost. You can also mulch your plants later with pine needles, which will contribute to the soil’s acidity as they break down. Plant early in the spring, being sure to leave 6-8 feet between plants. Dig holes deep enough to sink the roots all the way in without needing to mound the soil on top. Water well until the plants are established. After a few years, you may need to prune the bushes to encourage productivity; do so by removing excessive, twiggy growth.
First, follow the steps in “preparation” to ensure that the berries are clean and dry. Once dry, ripe berries should be refrigerated. If berries are sour and have white or pink areas near the base, they may be under-ripe and can be left out to ripen. Refrigerated berries should be eaten within a week. For long-term storage, pour the berries into freezer bags, taking care not to squish any, and freeze for up to several months. Blueberries can also be made into jam and then canned.
Blueberries are often high on the list of “super foods,” and for good reason: they are full of anthocyanins, a class of phytochemicals that work as antioxidants. Antioxidants can help fight free radicals, compounds that damage cells. More simply put, antioxidants can help your body battle compounds that are related to cancer and chronic disease.
Rinse berries in a colander, being sure to pick out any leaves and stems. Then, spread out on a cookie sheet or clean dish towel and allow to air dry out of direct sunlight. If berries are still white or pink near the bases, allow to sit out for a few days continue ripening. Ripe berries are fully blue and should be more sweet than sour in flavor.
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