Blueberries are easy to grow in Louisiana; find a sunny, well drained spot and the bushes thrive. Blueberries are ripening now and I have a precious two cups to cook with and eat. I love the aromatic punch that blueberries add to muffins, pancakes and sauces. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants – anthocyanins – and have numerous health benefits. This week I cooked a Balsamic Blueberry Sauce to serve with Braised Brisket on Memorial Day.
Scientific Institute in town studies blueberries
A interesting piece of trivia is that a major nutritional research institute is located in our city. The Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been a leader in studying the health benefits of blueberries. Their research gives us more good reasons to eat blueberries!
The Pennington Center was started with a grant in 1980 to LSU (Louisiana State University) from a wealthy benefactor, oilman and philanthropist, C. B. “Doc” Pennington and his wife, Irene. His interest was studying the impact of nutrition on chronic diseases such as heart disease; the benefactor believed that good nutrition could prevent and cure many diseases — he especially liked Vitamin E.. He sited travels to underdeveloped countries and encounters with malnourished children as one source of his interest in nutrition.
The center hired Dr.George Bray, obesity researcher, as its first director. Bray was a master in attracting research grants and top researchers from around the country; the center grew and thrived. Over the years the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has become a huge nutritional research institute. The center is “the largest academically based nutrition research center in the world.”
The Pennington Center focuses on obesity research, but includes a full range of nutritional studies from molecular and biochemical studies, to animal models and human research studies. My husband participated in one study; eating all his meals there for about three months, to study the effects of bran on lipids.
Health Benefits of Blueberries
Blueberries have the highest concentration of the phytochemical, anthocyanin, of any fruit; hence blueberries are the subject of quite a bit of research. The health benefits of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables include acting as antioxidants, anti-cancer agents, anti-inflammatory agents and blueberries may help prevent chronic neurological degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have shown that daily consumption of blueberries or blueberry powder extract improves insulin resistance, a known factor in heart disease. A study published in 2015 showed improvement of endothelial function of blood vessels (but not blood pressure).
A key point to remember here is that these research study benefits come from eating blueberries on a daily basis–not just once in awhile. However, paired with eating other fruits and vegetables, I believe that the quality of a person’s diet can greatly be improved..
Growing Backyard Blueberries in Louisiana
Here’s my blueberry bush at five years. I’ve had other blueberry bushes but the lawnmower and weed-eater destroyed them. Plant the bushes in the early spring, fertilize and water in dry spells. It takes several years to get a productive crop, but it is worth it.The blueberries ripen a few each day; so picking them daily is important. The blueberries continue to ripen once picked.
Balsamic Blueberry Sauce
I wanted to make a blueberry sauce with my blueberry crop. I’ve seen several recipes adding balsamic vinegar to a fruit sauce and was intrigued with the idea. The sauce turned out great. It is tart, not like a sweet dessert sauce. Fruit sauces go well with meat and poultry. This sauce complemented nicely the braised brisket that we prepared on Memorial Day. The sauce would also taste great served with yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, waffles (even with the tartness).
Here are the ingredients for the sauce.To make the sauce, bring the ingredients to a boil on the stove until the cornstarch thickens and the sauce is reduced. I used a good quality balsamic vinegar and added the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice after removing the sauce from the heat. My sauce is quick and easy to make — takes about 10 minutes. The sauce thickens as it cools. Save some of the blueberries to add to the sauce at the table.The fruit sauce tasted delicious with the braised brisket.
Balsamic Blueberry Sauce from MayleesKitchen
- 1 pint (2 cups) blueberries, divided
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup water, divided
- 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Method and Steps
- Drain and rinse blueberries and set aside.
- In small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup cold water.
- Add cornstarch to small sauce pot along with remaining 1/2 cup water and brown sugar. Stir to combine.
- Add 1 1/2 cup blueberries to sauce pot. Save remaining berries for garnish.
- Heat over medium high heat to boiling, stirring constantly, until cornstarch begins to thicken. Some blueberries may pop.
- Decrease heat to low, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, stir in balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. The sauce thickens as it cools
- Add remaining blueberries to sauce just before serving, or add to individual plates.