By Mable Thompson
It’s that time of year when we’re harvesting (or bulk purchasing) the food we’ve been eating fresh and jarring it for the upcoming months, when it will not be so readily available. Several options to jar fresh fruit include jam, preserves, jelly and compote. What is the difference between these options? The amount of the original fruit.
Jam is made from chopped, pureed, or mashed fruit cooked down with sugar. Preserves have whole fruit or large pieces of fruit mixed with jelly. Jelly is made with strained fruit juice and pectin thickener. There are no pieces of fruit in jelly. Compote, a cousin to preserves, is made with fresh or dried fruit, cooked low and slow in a sugar syrup so that the fruit pieces stay somewhat intact and the sauce naturally thickens.
I favor compote. A quick and easy Blueberry Compote with a hint of lemon is the perfect topping to stir into yogurt, drizzle on top of pancakes or French toast, or spoon over ice cream. All you need are a few ingredients and less than 15 minutes to make this delicious, chunky fruit sauce.
To make blueberry compote, you will need:
- Fresh blueberries — the main ingredient of this recipe, but frozen berries will work just as well.
- Lemon zest to brighten the compote’s flavor.
- Lemon juice to boost natural pectin to help thicken the blueberry sauce.
- Sugar – typically, not a lot of sugar is needed to sweeten fruit compote, two tablespoons per pound of fresh fruit is more than enough. But, because lemon juice adds tartness, the amount of sugar can be increased 3-4 tablespoons depending on taste, especially if the blueberries are off-season and not very sweet.
- Salt – just a pinch is needed to enhance the flavor of the compote.
- Mace (cousin of nutmeg) – just a pinch is my special ingredient, to add a dash of savory to the compote.
- 1 lb fresh blueberries, cleaned and de-stemmed
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- 2 – 4 tablespoon granulated sugar, depending on taste
- A pinch of kosher salt
- A pinch of mace
- Wash and de-stem the blueberries.
- Add blueberries, sugar, salt, mace, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat for 5 -10 minutes uncovered until blueberries are wilted and soft, and the sauce has thickened slightly.
The compote will continue to thicken as it cools. If using frozen blueberries, the cooking time may need to be longer — frozen berries release more water and will take longer to reduce and thicken.
- For a thicker and chunkier blueberry compote, like a preserve or pie filling, remove the fruits about 2/3 of the way through the cooking time and allow the liquid to reduce by half. Add the fruits back in, take off the heat, and sauce will thicken further as it cools.
- For a thinner, pourable blueberry sauce or syrup, cook the entire mixture for the entire amount of time without removing the fruits. As it cooks, the juice will reduce but the fruits will also release more juice and make the mixture thinner.
- Store the compote in a clean, lidded jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- To store longer, or to store a large batch, freeze it. Divide the sauce into smaller portions in ice cube trays, freeze solid, and defrost as much as needed to top yogurt, pancakes, French toast or ice cream.
Blueberries are sweet, nutritious and wildly popular. Labeled a superfood, they are low in calories and incredibly good for you, and so tasty and convenient that many people consider them their favorite fruit. Here are 10 proven health benefits of blueberries.
- Blueberries are low in calories and high in nutrients.
The two most common types of blueberries are the Highbush blueberries, the most common cultivated variety in the U.S., and Lowbush or “wild” blueberries, typically smaller and richer in some antioxidants.
Blueberries are among the most nutrient-dense berries; one-cup serving of blueberries contains:
Fiber: 4 grams
Vitamin C: 24% of the recommended daily intake
Vitamin K: 36% of the RDI
Manganese: 25% of the RDI
- Blueberries are the queen of antioxidant foods.
Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and contribute to aging and diseases, such as cancer. Blueberries are believed to have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables.
The main antioxidant compounds in blueberries belong to a family of polyphenols antioxidants called flavonoids. One group of flavonoids in particular — anthocyanins — is thought to be responsible for much of these berries’ beneficial health effects. Blueberries have been shown to directly increase antioxidant levels in your body.
- Blueberries reduce DNA damage, which may help protect against aging and cancer.
Oxidative DNA damage is an unavoidable part of everyday life. It is said to occur tens of thousands of times per day in every cell in your body. DNA damage is part of the reason we grow older. It also plays an important role in the development of diseases like cancer.
Because blueberries are high in antioxidants, they can neutralize some of the free radicals that damage your DNA. In one study, 168 people drank 34 ounces of a mixed blueberry and apple juice daily. After four weeks, oxidative DNA damage due to free radicals was reduced by 20%. These findings agree with smaller studies that use either fresh or powdered blueberries.
Oxidative damage is not limited to your cells and DNA. It is also problematic when your “bad” LDL cholesterol is oxidized. In fact, oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol is a crucial step in the heart disease process. The antioxidants in blueberries are strongly linked to reduced levels of oxidized LDL. This makes blueberries very good for your heart.
A daily 2-ounce serving of blueberries lowered LDL oxidation by 27% over eight weeks in obese people. Another study determined that eating 2.5 ounces of blueberries with a main meal significantly reduced the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- Blueberries may lower blood pressure.
Blueberries appear to have significant benefits for people with high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. In an eight-week study, obese people who had had a high risk of heart disease noted a 4–6% reduction in blood pressure after consuming 2 ounces of blueberries per day. Other studies have observed similar effects — especially for postmenopausal women.
While eating blueberries may lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL cholesterol, it’s important to keep in mind that these are risk factors — not actual diseases. It would be much more informative to know whether blueberries help prevent hard endpoints like heart attacks, which are the world’s leading cause of death. A study in 93,600 nurses found that those with the highest intake of anthocyanins — the main antioxidants in blueberries — were at a 32% lower risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intake.
Because this was an observational study, it cannot prove that the anthocyanins alone caused the reduction in risk, but blueberries may help prevent heart disease.
Oxidative stress can accelerate your brain’s aging process, negatively affecting brain function. According to animal studies, the antioxidants in blueberries may affect areas of your brain that are essential for intelligence. They appear to benefit aging neurons, leading to improvements in cell signaling.
Human studies have also yielded promising results. In one of these studies, nine older adults with mild cognitive impairment consumed blueberry juice every day. After 12 weeks, they experienced improvements in several markers of brain function. A six-year study in over 16,000 older individuals found that blueberries and strawberries were linked to delays in mental aging by up to 2.5 years
Blueberries provide moderate amounts of sugar compared to other fruits. One cup holds 15 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to a small apple or large orange. However, the bioactive compounds in blueberries appear to outweigh any negative impact of the sugar when it comes to blood sugar control.
Research suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. These anti-diabetes effects occur with both blueberry juice and extract. In a study in 32 obese people with insulin resistance, two blueberry smoothies daily caused major improvements in insulin sensitivity.
- May help fight urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem for women.
It is widely known that cranberry juice can help prevent these types of infections. Because blueberries are closely related to cranberries, they boast many of the same active substances as cranberry juice.
These substances are called anti-adhesives and help prevent bacteria like E. coli from binding to the wall of your bladder. Blueberries have rarely been studied for their impact on UTIs, but they likely have similar effects as cranberries.
- Blueberries may reduce muscle damage after strenuous exercise.
Strenuous exercise can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue. This is driven partly by local inflammation and oxidative stress in your muscle tissue. Blueberry supplements may lessen the damage that occurs at a molecular level, minimizing soreness and reduced muscle performance. In a small study in 10 female athletes, blueberries accelerated muscle recovery after strenuous leg exercises.
Blueberries are incredibly healthy and nutritious. They boost your heart health, brain function and numerous other aspects of your body. What’s more, they’re sweet, colorful and easily enjoyed either fresh or frozen.