Ah, a lovely batch of golden blueberry muffins.

Except, sometimes they're not golden. Sometimes, they're more like greenish-blue blueberry muffins instead. 

Fresh blueberries are a pleasure to bake with. But unless you have access to a blueberry patch, fresh berries can be quite expensive; and their season is short. Enter frozen blueberries, the backbone of many a winter blueberry pie.

Bowl of frozen blueberries
A stash of blueberries in the freezer means summertime baking is possible all year long. 

But pie is one thing. Muffins, scones, cake, and coffeecake are quite another, frozen berries bleeding juice into batter to turn these golden-hued beauties a sickly shade of purple-green.

This doesn't have to happen, you know. There's a simple solution.

Rinse your frozen blueberries before you use them.

Bowl of frozen blueberries in water
A quick rinse can make all the difference. 

Rinse berries in cold water several times – until the water is noticeably lighter when you drain them. It'll start out dark blue, but will gradually shade its way up to a watery red/blue.

When that happens, dry the berries well with several layers of paper towels, top and bottom.

Blueberries patted dry with paper towel
Be gentle when patting the blueberries dry, as they can be quite fragile! 

Let's see what happens when we use them in muffins. Specifically, Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins.

Gently and quickly stir the frozen berries into the batter. You'll see a few inevitable streaks of blue, but the entire batter shouldn't turn blue. If that starts to happen – stop stirring, you're done!

Batter with blueberries without juice streaks
Make sure not to overmix the muffin batter, or the blueberry juice will still bleed. 

The muffins made with rinsed frozen berries are on the left; the un-rinsed frozen berries are on the right. See how much more the juice bled into the batter when we didn't rinse the berries beforehand?

Muffin tin with golden blueberry muffin batter on left, blueish batter on right
Batter made with rinsed frozen blueberries on the left, un-rinsed on the right. 

And here are the baked muffins. The rinsed frozen berries tinted the muffins just a bit, but not nearly as much as they would have had I not rinsed them.

Golden blueberry muffin on right, blueish blueberry muffin on left
And here they are baked: rinsed blueberries gave the muffin on the left a lovely golden hue, while the un-rinsed berries dyed the muffin on the right. 

Man, now I REALLY want a blueberry muffin, don't you? This berry-packed recipe is for Famous Department Store Blueberry Muffins, a clone of the sugar-crusted muffins once served in the top-floor café at Jordan Marsh, a Boston department store (and New England institution). Jordan's, sadly, is out of business; but their muffins live on.

Remember, rinse and dry those frozen berries before you use them; it DOES make a difference. Enjoy!

Note: To those of you below wondering about losing flavor and nutrients when you rinse the berries, it's true, you probably lose a little bit of the berries' nutrition. But most of the juice (and vitamins) remain inside the berries; and I doubt you could notice a difference in flavor. By all means, use berries without rinsing, if that's your preference. As usual – no baking police here!

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About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was an award-winning Maine journalist (favorite topics: sports and food) before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. Hired to write the newly launched Baker’s Catalogue, PJ became the small but growing company’s sixth employee.PJ wa...
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