If you bought some blueberries at the supermarket that turned out not to be quite as ripe as you hoped, or if you picked your home-grown berries a little too early, they’ll likely be too sour to eat as they are. Luckily, there are still various tasty recipes you can make with them! Let’s have a look at 6 great ways to save unripe blueberries.
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Do Blueberries Ripen After Picking?
As mentioned in the full post on how to tell when blueberries are ripe (which you should check out if you’re not sure when exactly to pick home-grown blueberries), blueberries don’t really “ripen” after they’re picked.
Green blueberries are a lost cause for eating out of hand: they will not turn blue and they will not develop their sugars. Berries that are partially ripe but still have reddish or purple shoulders can soften a bit after picking, but you’ll unfortunately still have to count on them being quite tart.
This being said, if you ended up with a batch of green or half-ripe blueberries, don’t despair. There’s no need to throw them away!
Below, we’ll discuss one great recipe for green berries, plus five more for unripe blueberries that do have some color.
For Green Or White Blueberries: Make Verjus
What is verjus?
Blueberries that are picked too early will be white or greenish in color. At this stage, they’ll be really sour and not pleasant to eat at all. In fact, they might upset your stomach!
Luckily, although you can’t eat them as they are, they can actually be used as the main ingredient for a yummy vinegar alternative called verjus.
Verjus (or verjuice) refers specifically to a type of sour but sweet juice made from unripe fruit. The name comes from the French words “vert” and “jus”, which literally means “green juice”.
The recipe for verjus dates back all the way to the Middle Ages. It’s most commonly made with unripe grapes, but you can also prepare it using crabapples and, indeed, unripe blueberries!
Although it fell out of fashion for a long time, with only some French, southern US and various Middle Eastern recipes using it, verjus seems to have made a bit of a comeback in recent years.
That’s not surprising, because it’s a great way to use up unripe fruits unsuitable for other preparations. Plus, it’s delicious, and it makes for a wonderfully mild alternative to vinegar or lemon juice in a range of different recipes.
Uses for verjus include:
- Salad dressings and vinaigrettes
- To deglaze a pan (instead of wine)
- In risotto (instead of wine and/or lemon juice)
- In cocktails (instead of citrus)
- In desserts like sorbets (instead of citrus)
Making verjus with unripe blueberries
Although verjus is going through a bit of a revival – not in the least thanks to publications by chefs like Maggie Beer and Thierry Rautureau – it’s still not something you’ll find in your average supermarket. No problem, we’ll just make some ourselves using those green unripe blueberries.
**By the way….Chef Thierry Rautureau is a co-anchor (along with Chef Tom Douglas) on the radio show/podcast called “Hot Stove Radio Show or Seattle’s Kitchen”. It’s a go-to listen for me every Saturday!
Preparing a jug of homemade verjus is a breeze:
- Run the blueberries through a juicer or hand-operated food mill (passe-vite) to obtain the juice.
- Optionally, strain through a cheesecloth to remove any leftover pulp.
That’s it! Told you it was easy.
Pour the verjus into a bottle or mason jar and it’ll keep for up to 3 months in the fridge. You can also freeze it in small batches (like in an ice cube tray) if you made a lot and are worried you won’t be able to finish it in time.
Tip: Even if you strained your verjus through a fine cloth, some sediment can still settle at the bottom of the bottle or jar. Nothing to worry about.
How to Use Half-Ripe Blueberries
Many of the recipes you’ll find on this site that involve cooking the berries can be prepared using batches that do have some color, but aren’t fully ripe.
The secret is to just add a little more sugar than you normally would in order to offset the tartness of the unripe blueberries. If the recipe uses vinegar or citrus, you can reduce the amount a little to keep things balanced – or don’t, if you don’t mind a bit of extra acidity.
Use underripe blueberries to make:
Blueberry Breakfast Popsicles
Blueberry season coincides with the hottest days of summer – exactly the time of year when many of us don’t feel like eating heavy, hot meals. If you’re looking for a light breakfast option, try making a batch of refreshing blueberry popsicles with Greek yogurt and granola!
Find all the instructions in the full blueberry lime breakfast popsicle recipe. Reduce the lime a bit and add some extra honey to make up for the increased tartness of not-quite-ripe berries.
One of the easiest ways to use up blueberries that are a little on the tart side is by making a simple blueberry jam. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated: blueberries, lemon juice and sugar are technically all you need.
To make your blueberry jam, just cook down the ingredients for 30 minutes or until they have thickened to your liking. You can also opt to spruce up the jam with additions like vanilla, cinnamon or your favorite spices.
Homemade jams will last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge in a regular jam jar. Delicious on toast, as an accompaniment to Dutch poffertjes or to top off a stack of pancakes!
If you can your blueberry jam in a sterilized jar, it can last for up to a year outside of the fridge.
If you have both unripe blueberries and a bottle of plain vodka laying around, you’re in luck. A world of cocktail recipes just opened up! You can easily make your own blueberry-infused liquor by just steeping a pint of berries in a bottle’s worth of vodka for up to 4 weeks.
All you have to do is smash the berries and add them to the vodka. Then, stir in half a cup of regular white sugar and wait. After at least 48 hours (but preferably a week or more), strain out the berries and voilà: beautifully colored, fruity homemade blueberry vodka. Cheers.
Alternatively, make your own blueberry drink syrup and add it to some great vodka for a luscious blueberry martini.
Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce
Move over Sweet Baby Rays! Homemade blueberry barbecue sauce is a fantastic accompaniment to grilled meats like pork chops. It’s also a perfect way to use up less-than-stellar blueberries, as it calls for sugar and vinegar. Just add a little more of the former, and reduce the latter a bit.
Sound good? You can find all the instructions in the full blueberry bourbon BBQ sauce recipe.
Although unripe blueberries should work well in any syrup recipe, as you’ll be adding plenty of sugar, why not take things up a notch and prepare a bottle of homemade shrub syrup?
Perfect for use in cocktails and even just to mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, shrub syrups are basically normal fruit syrups with some added vinegar for an extra kick. You can find more information and instructions in the full blueberry shrub syrup recipe.
If you’re not afraid to freestyle a bit, you could use verjus (see above) in your shrub syrup instead of vinegar. As mentioned, add some extra sugar.
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