We’re deep into one of the favorite times of the year: berry season. Whether you’re shopping at the grocery store or the farmers market, you’ll see berries at good prices throughout their peak moment in the sun. Whenever I see perfect berries, I pick up 2 pints. Here are five reasons why you should, too — for Fourth of July cooking and throughout the summer: Jam, pie, shrubs, sauce and slumps.
Jams and pies are pretty standard, but there are other good ways to use berries beyond these traditional methods. Fruit shrubs are sometimes called “drinking vinegars,” and they’re very on-trend right now. Savory berry sauces have long accompanied game meats such as venison, and I especially like them with grilled fish, chicken, beef, pork and lamb. A berry slump is a nice change from a cobbler, and is made atop the stove — no heating the oven and the house on a hot day.
All of these recipes call for 1 or 2 pints of berries. One pint of berries contains about 2 cups, no matter whether they’re blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or any other kind of berry. Take care when buying in a supermarket; we found that some so-called pints don’t actually measure out to a full 2 cups. You may need to buy a little extra.
One pint of berries contains about 2 cups, no matter whether they’re blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or any other kind of berry.
A pint of berries will make 2 half-pint jars of jam — one for you now, and one to give away or put into your pantry for later. I like to put jams up in half-pints so the whole jar is used before everyone gets sick of it. Use your favorite recipe or make up your own — the ratio for jam is 2 parts fruit to 1 part sugar. Cook the berries and sugar over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens enough that a spoon drawn through the jam leaves the bottom of the pan exposed for a minute; there’s no need to stand over it and stir constantly, but a meditative go-round with a wooden spoon is a good idea every once in a while.
Add flavorings to your liking — lemon zest and juice are good with blueberries; so is cinnamon. Try balsamic vinegar and black peppercorns with strawberries. If the jam will be eaten within a month, it can just be refrigerated.
For longer storage, can by the boiling water bath method or freeze the jars — even glass jars — once they’ve cooled. If you plan to freeze, leave extra room in the jar to accommodate expansion and leave the lids loose. Once the jars are frozen, tighten the lids.
Berry pie and other baked goodies
You’ll need about 4 cups, or 2 pints, of berries for a pie or a tart. Most of us have our own favorite pie recipes, as well as our preferred pastry dough, so I’m not including a pie recipe here. Quick breads and muffins are easy to make — you’ll need about a pint of berries for your favorite recipe. These, too, freeze well.
A shrub is a refreshing vinegar and fruit drink that’s restorative on blistering summer days. Here, fresh berries are cooked into a syrup to flavor a shrub.
Shrubs are so satisfying on a blistering day, and so easy to make. Fill a tall glass with ice, add a splash of shrub and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water or tonic for a bubbly refresher. Adults might like to use sparkling wine instead of tonic or sparkling water, or add a jigger of gin or vodka. Garnish with a slice of lemon or lime or a sprig of mint.
Make shrubs by either the cold method or one that requires a bit of cooking. I find the cold method easier. To do so, combine 2 pints of lightly mashed berries in a large bowl with 2 cups of white sugar. Add any additional flavorings now: sliced fresh ginger, fresh basil, cinnamon sticks, cloves, what have you. Cover the bowl and let it stand on the kitchen counter for a day or two. Strain the syrup into a measuring cup, discarding the now exhausted fruit. Add an equal measure of vinegar — cider vinegar’s just the start; you can also use balsamic, red wine, Champagne and other types, or a mix of several — but taste as you go, so the shrub isn’t too tart for you. You’ll end up with about 3 cups of shrub, which keeps almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.
To make a shrub with the cooking method, combine equal parts sugar and water — 2 cups of each is a good place to start. Heat this in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 pints of fruit and simmer until the syrup takes on the fruit’s colors and the berries have begun to break down. Strain the syrup into a measuring cup and add an equal measure of vinegar, tasting as you go. The strained-out berries are a good topping for ice cream and pound cake. Again, you’ll end up with about three cups of shrub.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: about 2 cups
This savory sauce is terrific to have on hand during grilling season. Freeze it in half-pint jars of about 4 servings each, if you wish. This recipe provides the ultimate in customization options; choose fresh herbs and vinegars to suit your palate.
2 tablespoons each: butter, olive oil, divided use
1/4 cup minced shallots or sweet onion, such as Vidalia
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs of your choice: rosemary, basil, thyme, chives, marjoram, or a mixture
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups (1 pint) fresh berries
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vinegar: balsamic, Champagne, raspberry, cider or other favorite
Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving: 90 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 6 g sugar, 0.5 g protein, 3 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Slumps are old traditional desserts. They were easier for cooks to prepare when baking space was hard to come by. Instead, a mixture of steamed lightly sweetened fruit cooks atop the stove, and sweet dumplings cap off the dessert.
4 cups (2 pints) fresh berries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water or juice
1 teaspoon each: lemon zest, lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of your favorite dessert spice: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, or a little of each
1 cup self-rising flour, or 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk
Nutrition information per serving: 211 calories, 2 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 46 g carbohydrates, 27 g sugar, 3 g protein, 233 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Source: www.chicagotribune.com, 7-2-19