Berry season has always been a favorite time of the year. Sweet, juicy berries thick in the meadows and wood lines. Deep-colored plump blackberries, wild and free. Rich red strawberries and raspberries enjoyed both just picked and cooked into jams.
While growing up I enjoyed a great variety of jellies, jams, and butters. I have also enjoyed Lehman’s specialty known as “Bumbleberry Jam” – a mixture of berry goodness not to be missed.
My favorite way to use berries to their greatest potential is as fresh as possible. Most berries are best used as soon after harvest as possible, making them ideal for purchasing and using locally grown foods. Support your local farmer’s markets throughout the year!
A Classic: Old-Fashioned Double-Layer Fresh Strawberry Shortcake
3 pints of fresh strawberries
½ cup of sugar if needed
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening (lard was the original shortening used – I use Crisco™)
1 egg – beaten
2/3 cup cold milk
2 cups whipped heavy cream – don’t cut corners; make your own
Slice the strawberries and toss them with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Grease and flour one 8 inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, 2 tablespoons white sugar and the salt. With a pastry blender cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the beaten egg and milk. Stir until just combined.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool partially in pan on wire rack.
Slice partially cooled cake in half, making two layers. Place half of the berries on one layer of the cake and top with the other layer of cake. Top with remaining berries and cover with the whipped cream.
Gooseberries are fun to work with – they are a big change from the berries we are used to on the east coast. I find them all year at my local organic food store. Chutney is a favorite in this region; this savory concoction is a wonderful glaze for pork loin roast.
3 lb gooseberries
1/2 lb onions
1 lb sugar
1/2 pint water
1/2 oz salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pint vinegar
Top and tail the berries, and chop roughly. Chop the onions finely and cook with the berries in the water until they are well softened. Add the other ingredients, and simmer until the chutney becomes thick, stirring occasionally. Bottle while hot and cover immediately. This chutney, yielding about 4.5 lbs becomes more mellow in flavor the longer it is kept (thank you to Gingerich Farms for their gooseberry information).
Red Mulberry Smoothie
I love this recipe for a breakfast on the go. No sugar is a big help if you’re diabetic like I am.
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
½ to 1 cup fresh or frozen red mulberries
Frozen ripe banana
(Other soft fruit as desired: peach, apricot, plum, blueberries)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. No sugar is needed because of the natural sweetness of the fruit.
Berries freeze extremely well and are easy to put up while in season – spread on wax paper lined baking sheets – freeze until hard, then place frozen berries in bags or freezer containers.
Eating a diet that includes the colors of the rainbow is a healthy diet that offers us the variety we enjoy. Berries can be used both as savory and dessert ingredients.