In case you haven’t noticed, summer is almost over in the South. Yes the temperature is still hovering close to 100 but the kids are heading back to school as we speak. Even so, the best part of the season has arrived in the form of fresh picked berries. Whether you buy them by the pint at the farmer’s market or pick them yourself, you can indulge in summer with any number of berry desserts.
There are many desserts besides pies and tarts that suit berries; cobblers and crisps, shortcakes, ice cream, sorbet or trifle to name a few. The key is to let the flavor of the berry (or berries) shine by not complicating it with a lot of other ingredients. However, there are things you can do to enhance and heighten the flavor with out masking it. One of my favorite things to use with fresh berries is rosewater and just a small amount will bring out the floral notes in the berries. A bit of trivia for you, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all members of the rose family and this is why the use of rosewater compliments the berries so nicely. When making berry desserts, I frequently add a small amount of vanilla bean by splitting the pod and scraping out the tiny seeds. Fresh citrus zests also add a nice touch but must be used sparingly or they will overpower the berries. When working with strawberries, try adding a splash of anisette, an anise flavored liqueur. The floral notes and slightly sweet flavor of the liqueur blend beautifully with them. For blueberries, try a touch of fresh grated ginger and a pinch of lemon zest. Blackberries like spices so don’t be scared to try a pinch of cinnamon or mace along with a pinch of orange zest.
If you find yourself with more berries than you can use right away, lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them. Once they are frozen, store them airtight and use them for recipes that require cooking since the texture will not be the same as fresh. Another way to use the berries is to simmer them gently with some sugar and a little vanilla bean and citrus zest then when the fruit is completely cooked, about 10-15 minutes, press them in a sieve to extract the concentrated fruit syrup. Now you have a sauce to drizzle over ice cream and cheesecake. But if you want a truly decadent treat, turn that syrup into a fruit flavored martini by mixing it with vodka and a splash of liqueur-orange or anise will work.
For recipes and ideas to use your berries in, check out these websites:
Better Homes and Gardens
Most of all, be fearless and experiment with new flavors. To recieve information on Nashville Bakeries, baking tips and more, become a subscriber to this column by clicking on the button at the top of the article.