Blue Berries

Plump, juicy berries peeking out of steaming muffins. Tiny, wild berries in flaky pie crust with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A crystal bowl filled with berries, and a pitcher of chilled cream beside it.

Blues are one of the berries that are equally good right from the vine or baked in pies, breads, and desserts. They can also be enjoyed all year round, because fresh berries that have been frozen taste almost as good in December as they do in July.

Going blueberrying is a favorite summer activity, fun for children as well as adults. Buckets fill up quickly, especially if you pick the high-bush variety, which grow abundantly in Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

The peak season for Blueberries ranges from the beginning of June in North Carolina, to mid-July in New Jersey, to the beginning of August in Michigan.

Low-bush wild berries grow in Maine and eastern Canada. They are usually harvested from Aug. 15 through mid-September, but most are marketed in processed form.

If you've been out berrying, take good care of your blues when you bring them home. Do not wash then if they will be stored in the refrigerator before using. The berries will become soft and deteriorate more quickly if you do.

Just spread them loosely in a shallow container and refrigerate immediately. Blueberries are very perishable and should be eaten as soon as possible.

Rinse berries under ice cold water just before using, handling as little as possible. Drain at once.

When using frozen blueberries, you may find ice particles scattered among them. Place berries in a colander and rinse until ice is melted, then dry on paper towels. Otherwise, you will have too much water in your recipe.

Here are some favorite recipes for blues: Blueberry Glace Pie 1 quart blueberries 3/4 cup water 1 cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 2 tablespoons orange juice 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 1 baked 9-inch pie shell

Simmer 1 cup of berries in water for 3 to 4 minutes. Combine sugar and cornstarch and add to cooking fruit, stirring continuously until syrup is thick and ruby-clear. Stir in 1 tablespoon orange juice.

Mix other tablespoon of orange juice with softened cream cheese. Spread on bottom of pastry shell and cover with remaining berries. Pour cooked fruit mixture over all.

Chill pie thoroughly before serving. This is especially good with ice cream. Serves 8. Boston Gingerbread 1/4 cup butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 eggs, well beaten 1 3/4 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground ginger 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup molasses 1 1/2 cups blueberries, washed, drained and dredged in a little flour

Perheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually, them eggs. Beat well.

Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with combined sour cream and molasses to creamed mixture. Fold in berries, then pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream. Serves 6. -- From "The Berry cookbook," by Carol Katz (Butterick Publishing, $7.95 paper).m

Blueberry-Orange Bread 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1/4 cup milk 1/2 cup fresh orange juice 3 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 egg 1 cup sugar 2 cups flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups blueberries, stemmed and washed 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In small bowl, combine melted butter, milk, orange juice, orange rind, and vanilla. In large bowl, beat egg and sugar until light and fluffy.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, alternately with juice. Beat until smooth. Gently fold in berries and pecans.

Pour batter into lightly greased 9-by-5- by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour , or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow bread to stand for 5 minutes before turning onto a rack to cool. When thoroughly cooled, wrap in foil and let sit overnight before cutting. -- From "Cooking With Berries," by Margaret Woolfolk (Crown Publishers, $10). Birta's Blueberry Brunch Cake 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup shortening 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 2 cups flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups blueberries, floured 1/2 cup sugar 1/3 cup flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup cold butter

Mix sugar and shortening thoroughly. Add egg and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with milk to creamed sugar mixture. Fold in bluebrries and pour batter into 9-inch square cake pan. Blend together sugar, flour, and cinnamon for topping. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. Bake 45 minutes in 350 degrees F. oven. Fresh Blueberry and Cantaloupe Salad 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin 3/4 cup water 1 cup hot water 1/2 cup sugar 1 1/3 cups fresh orange juice 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 1/4 cups fresh blueberries 1 cup fresh cantaloupe balls 1/2 cup sour cream 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1 cup diced fresh oranges Salad greens Cantaloupe balls

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add hot water and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add orange and lemon juices and salt. Chill until mixture begins to thicken. Divide gelatin into 2 equal parts and put each in separate bowl. Set one bowl aside at room temperature, to use later.

Fold into second bowl 1 cup of blueberries and cantaloupe. Turn into oiled 6 -cup mold. Chill until firm. Combine sour cream and mayonnaise. Fold into remaining bowl with 1 cup berries and oranges.

Turn into mold over gelatin layer, fill in mold. Chill until firm and ready to serve, 5 hours of overnight.

Just before serving, turn out onto serving plate. Garnish with grens, blueberries, and cantaloupe balls. Makes 6 to 8 servings. -- From "The Country Art of Blue berry Cookery," by Mrs. Clifford Davis Morrison.m

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