Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Spontaneous Blueberry Adventure: Freezing Fresh Blueberries/Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (Scroll down for step-by-step freezing and muffin recipe)  

   Several months ago, my friend, Joann and I had discussed the property that she and her husband, Charlie had recently purchased in the Georgia mountains and the small blueberry orchard nestled there.  She had told me the berries tended to ripen at the end of July and early August and to plan on traveling around that time if we wanted to pick.  The months passed and after we had already traveled to the North Carolina mountains in June, and were continuing to plan and save for a trip to visit family in Wisconsin soon, I began to wonder if we'd be able to afford it - even a less expensive, overnight jaunt.  
   Then, a little less than two weeks ago, I received an unexpected phone call from Joann.  Her husband had driven to the property to check on it and had called her.  He told her that she and the kids needed to get up there quickly because the trees were laden with berries and needed to be picked because they were falling off the branches.  "I know this is short notice," she said, "but how fast can you pack?"  "I'll call you back in ten minutes and let you know if we can do it," I replied hopefully. 
   With only our grocery money to fund the trip, we packed, loaded the van, grabbed a tent and headed up to their home within two hours.  We met our dear friends and followed them on a six hour drive into the mountains.  After a long and winding drive, we arrived to twelve acres of beautiful mountain land with neighboring horses and a recently built, immaculate garage with a full working restroom and fridge to help sustain us.  I am not the most outdoorsy girl and hate to be hot; but it was cooler up in the mountains and both families had brought fans to blow into the garage and tents.  The kids had a ball.  After Scott, Charlie, and the boys assembled the tents, the boys ran around and shot BB guns at targets (uh, paper plates on a fence).  The girls started a small bonfire and made flower crowns for their pretty little heads. Our caravan had previously stopped at the nearest Wal-Mart by the property and picked up sandwich fixins.  We sat in camping chairs, munched, laughed, and picked blueberries.
    Bedtime was an adventure in itself.  The girls slept in the smaller tent and the boys slept in the larger one.  I slept in the one with the boys so I could share the air mattress with my husband, Scott.  Once we finally got the boys quieted down, we could hear the girls giggling in the tent next to us.  Since I had spent most of the trip drinking iced tea and water, I spent the entire night running back and forth to the garage.  Since the bathroom light had been left on so we could find our way, every insect in Georgia decided to spend the evening in the bathroom. Fortunately, they kept to themselves and made an interesting study in etymology!
    I must have tripped over blankets and tent flaps a million times; and once even unzipped the flaps incorrectly and bounced off the tent screen.  My son, Harrison, kept trying to weasel onto the air mattress for the first hour; so he and my husband wrestled and laughed while I got knocked about on the opposite side.  It actually got chilly and even with five other people in the tent, I needed that blanket!  I can honestly say that I did not sleep even a wink the entire night, but when Joann and Charlie greeted me the next morning with a hot cup of coffee to strengthen me, the blueberry picking continued! Joann and Charlie also blessed us with two baskets of peaches they had picked from Charlie's Dad's that morning.  What a blast!  We left in the afternoon and got home by nine that evening.
    After we had stemmed, washed, and frozen all of our blueberries into pint-sized bags, we calculated our berry total.  We have 58 pints of blueberries!  At around $3.00 a pint from the grocery store, that values our haul to around $174.00.  That is more than what we spent for our trip.  I also now have 8 pints of frozen peaches and a basket of little apples we picked on the property as well. Meals have been humble around here (except for the amazing blueberry recipes, of course!) as we pant for the next paycheck, but wow, was it worth the trip!  Aside from the wonderful, luscious blueberries, we had a fun adventure with our dear and generous friends!  We've enjoyed blueberry pancakes, blueberry pie, and the above blueberry muffins.  One of my favorite ways to snack is to grab a small bowl of frozen blueberries, let them thaw a few minutes, and eat them like candy while they're still a little frozen.  I'm convinced that makes the flavor more intense!  I've also researched the health benefits of blueberries - the superfood.  They are praised from everything from their resveratrol content (reduces blood pressure), to reducing belly fat, improving memory, being high in vitamin C and fiber, as well as other benefits.  With all of the blueberries I have been eating, I should be wearing a cape and fighting crime by now!   Scroll below for our blueberry freezing process and a moist, delicious recipe for lemon blueberry muffins!

Emily removes the stems before rinsing and draining a batch of blueberries.  Some folks prefer to freeze them before washing.  I am ashamed of how many large, empty ice cream containers we had in stock.........They do, however, make great picking "baskets"!


Big sister, Hayden, peels the peaches we blanched for freezing as well.

We used glass, casserole dishes to spread out our batches of blueberries because they would have rolled off cookie sheets!. We filled these casserole dishes several times.   It took about three days to freeze all the berries.  We kept the waiting buckets in our outside refrigerator.

These are ready for the freezer.

After freezing about seven hours, the marble-like blueberries easily loosened from the casserole dish.  If they are not hard enough, the Food Saver will squish them!

I measured two cups (1 pint) into each pre-made, dated and labeled Food Saver bag.

Ready for the freezer!

The peaches were blanched, peeled, pitted, and chopped.  I measured two cups into several empty Cool-Whip containers (yep, we have way too many of those too) and froze them.  After they were frozen, I flipped the container over and rinsed the bottom until the container released the block and then sealed them in Food Saver bags.  I also freeze my pumpkin puree this way.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins (makes 12)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tspn. baking powder
1 tspn. baking soda
1/2 tspn. salt
1 container (8 oz.) lemon yogurt (about a cup) * Most containers of yogurt are about five ounces. I ended up using lemon-flavored Greek style yogurt because it was larger (6 oz.), and it was too hard to find a regular lemon yogurt that didn't have artificial sweetener.  If artificial sweeteners don't bother you, you can use the "light" yogurt.
1/4 cup salted butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tspn. vanilla
2 cups fresh or thawed, drained frozen blueberries
*I added 1/2 cup of milk because the batter seemed too thick.  You want it to look a little thicker than pancake batter. I also sprinkled the finished muffins with powdered sugar after they cooled. The recipe actually states to sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar before you bake them.  Choose whichever method you prefer!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease twelve muffin cups.
    In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, stir together yogurt, melted butter, egg, lemon peel, and vanilla until blended (I used a mixer).  Make a well in center of dry ingredients, add yogurt mixture and stir just to combine.  Evaluate and decide if you need to add a little milk.  Carefully stir in blueberries.
    Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups and sprinkle with granulated sugar (unless you prefer to use powdered sugar when they cool).  Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
     Remove muffin tin or tins to wire rack (I just set them on hot pads on the counter).  Cool five minutes before removing muffins from cups.  I ran a sharp, smooth knife around the edges first. Serve warm or cool completely and store in air tight container at room temperature (if they last that long!).  These muffins freeze well.

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food....."
-Genesis 1:29

 ~ Jennifer

1 comment:

  1. Sounds so yummy! I love blueberries, there's nothing like them!!