Blueberries: Ideas and Recipes for Summer Treats

By JeanMarie Brownson | June 21st, 2023

Get festive with this abundant summertime berry


Blueberries fill fields, produce stands, and delicious treats during the summer. Use these ideas and recipes to make the most of the season.

Blueberries fill fields, produce stands, and delicious treats during the summer. Use these ideas and recipes from JeanMarie Brownson to make the most of the season.


The little dusty blueberries, the harbinger of mid-summer and the Fourth of July, our nation’s Independence Day, are just beginning to peak in the Midwest.

Summer farm stands throughout the land sell containers of the juicy fruit for eating by the handful – our preferred method, followed closely by blueberry anything. These tiny dark blue berries stipple our morning yogurt, mid-day muffins, late-night ice cream, and all-day drinks.

Michigan, our favorite fruit-growing state, harvests more than 90 million pounds of blueberries a year. Many of the state’s more than 30 different varieties grow on family farms in Southwestern Michigan. At the peak of the season, we visit you-pick farms, local markets and farm stands to fill our tummies and our freezers.

The state of Maine certainly embraces their wild blueberry. We encountered blueberry jam, pancakes, scones, muffins, syrups, beer, cider, iced tea, and myriad desserts on a recent hiking trip to Acadia National Park. We always gave a resounding yes to the frequent inquiry, “Would you like blueberry syrup with that?”

Maine often harvests more than 100 million pounds of the “lowbush” wild blueberry, which is native to northern New England and Atlantic Canada, annually. The Cooperative Extension of The University of Maine informs us, “This crop is not planted, but inhabits large fields on mountaintops and in glacial outwash plains, which formed 10,000 years ago. Any given field can have as many as 1,500 genetically distinct wild blueberry plants that create a patchwork of berry flavor, shapes, and colors which is why many people refer to them as wild.”

Blueberries are packed with vitamin C and offer a good source of manganese, fiber, and polyphenols. They also rank as the fruit with the highest antioxidant activity.

Best of all, blueberries require little prep for the cook. Check for stems, then rinse and pat dry. The berries can be frozen solid in a single layer then poured into freezer containers for easy storage. Many recipes work just as well with frozen blueberries as they do with fresh fruit.
For our Fourth of July celebrations, we’ll offer a moderately-sweet blueberry syrup to turn lemonade, iced tea, sparkling water, or wine into a fantastic treat. The same syrup effortlessly adorns pancakes, waffles, ice cream, and smoothies.

Old-fashioned desserts featuring blueberries appear on menus all over Bar Harbor, Maine. Inspired, the following recipe for a moist, tempting blueberry “buckle” (aka coffeecake) transforms a Fourth of July picnic or Sunday brunch. Or, serve it after dinner with a scoop of ice cream and a generous drizzle of blueberry syrup. All summer long.

Three inspired recipes with blueberries

Blueberry-Orange Syrup

Makes about 3 cups

Note: Refrigerate the syrup in a glass container for up to two weeks. This recipe doubles easily.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) fresh blueberries, stemmed, rinsed
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Put blueberries into a large pot. Add sugar to taste, salt and 1/2 cup water. Heat to a simmer, stirring, over medium heat. Cook covered for 1 minute.
  2. Uncover and cook on low heat, stirring often, until blueberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange rind and nutmeg. Cool completely.

Sparkling Blueberry Tonic

Makes 1 drink

Note: You can swap out sparkling wine or sparkling water for the tonic water.

Ingredients:

  • 1 heaping tablespoon Blueberry-orange syrup, see recipe
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 cup tonic water
  • 1 orange slice

Directions:

Put blueberry syrup with some of the fruit into a tall glass. Fill glass with ice. Top with tonic water. Stir. Serve garnished with an orange slice.

Blueberry Buckle with Brown Sugar Topping

Transform your Fourth of July picnic or Sunday brunch with a blueberry buckle.
Transform your Fourth of July picnic or Sunday brunch with a blueberry buckle.

Makes 8 to 12 servings

Note: This cake freezes well. Thaw in the refrigerator. To serve, warm pieces for a few seconds in the microwave.

Ingredients:

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 1/2 cups (18 ounces total) fresh blueberries, stemmed, rinsed, patted dry
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

For serving:

  • Blueberry-orange syrup, optional

Directions:

    1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
    2. For the topping, put softened butter, brown sugar and flour into a small bowl. Use clean fingers to blend the ingredients together into a crumbly mixture.
    3. For the cake, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in 2/3 of the berries to coat them with flour.
    4. Whisk eggs together in a medium bowl. Whisk in yogurt, vanilla, lemon rind and lemon juice. Whisk in melted butter. Gently stir egg mixture into the flour mixture until flour is incorporated. Do not overmix. Scrape into the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining berries over the top. Sprinkle the topping evenly over all.
    5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.

JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel, and dining for more than four decades.

© 2023 JeanMarie Brownson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Also from JeanMarie Brownson, this recipe for a satisfying meatless burger. Really!

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