WE'RE A BERRY-LOVING family. We love to pick berries. We love to eat berries. I love to cook with berries. When we lived in Washington state, we visited berry farms and picked to our hearts' content. Now that we’re back in Alaska, we forage and fight the bears off to get our berries. I prefer the Alaskan way. It’s not as easy, but we sure do appreciate it more.
A couple weeks ago we went blueberry picking in Denali. When we returned, I made some blueberry zucchini muffins. Luckily, there were a few left over when the power went out last week because of the nasty storm. They were like precious jewels around here. We rationed them out, quibbled over them, wanting them to last as long as possible. After all, I couldn’t just whip up another batch when we didn’t have power. They didn’t last long, though. Nothing good-tasting ever does around this house.
Because we work so hard for our berries, here’s some tips to get them to last through the winter. Maybe even through a power outage!
1. Make jams and jellies. This is my favorite. My currant-raspberry jam is coveted. You can mix it in yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, add it to your smoothie, spread it on toast or put it on PB&J for lunch. Oh, the possibilities!
2. Make fruit leather. This is fast becoming my new favorite. Just crush your berries, or use a blender. Add sweetener to taste. Spread onto a buttered, rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest oven setting (mine is 170˚) until dry and leathery, but not crisp. Enjoy immediately or save in an airtight container for later.
3. Make pie! Cherry pie, raspberry pie, blueberry pie, bumbleberry pie! It probably won’t last long, but you can always bake and freeze for later. You can freeze before baking, too, but it will take longer to bake. I’ve done it both ways successfully.
4. Freeze. This is the quickest, easiest way to preserve your berries. You’ll be able to take out your frozen berries whatever you want a taste of summer! The best way to freeze berries is to arrange a single layer of clean berries on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When frozen, transfer to freezer bags or containers.
5. Bake some goodies! Try my recipe for Blueberry Zucchini muffins. Like pies, they won’t last long, but they freeze well. You can use your frozen blueberries to make them. Be sure to make enough for YOUR next power outage!
Blueberry Zucchini Muffins
Makes 16-17 muffins, depending on how much batter you eat before you bake them!
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Lightly grease muffin pan. Combine eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars, and vanilla in a bowl, mixing well. Mash any clumps of brown sugar against the bowl. When no clumps remain and batter is smooth, fold in grated zucchini.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon. Add to zucchini mixture. Fold in blueberries.
If using frozen berries, do not defrost before adding. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. If using two pans, you can bake them together in a convection oven, or bake separately in a regular oven.
Bake 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan carefully by running a knife around the edge before taking them out to cool on a paper towel. Let cool for 15 minutes - if you can wait that long!