VERY BERRY GOOD!
Here is a selection of my favourite berries and ways to use them. Strawberries being the tops!
STRAWBERRIES ~ Strawberries sum up everything thats good about English summers for me - longs days, wimbledon and delicious cream teas. Look out for Pick-Your- Own farms, picking is great fun and the fruit will be at its freshest. When picking grip the fruit above the leaves and snip the stalk with your fingertips. Be gentle with them as strawberries bruise easily, and then they wll rot. Scent is a good indicator of their quality, you'll find the smaller strawberries will often have more flavour. Look for berries that are unblemished and bright red with fresh-looking green leafy tops. Remember strawberries don't ripen off the plant so choose ones that have no green or pale patches. Strawberries are highly perishable and will only keep for a couple of days once picked. Probably the nicest way to enjoy strawberries is just plain and simple, just get a freshly picked punnet of strawberries and dig in! I like to sprinkle my strawberries with a little sugar and spoon over a big dollop of cream, naughty but nice :) They also taste wonderful with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar too.
This is so easy to make and tastes wonderful with many desserts and puddings. I find it goes particularly well with Vanilla ice cream.
350g strawberries, hulled & chopped
2 rounded tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp water
Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring slowly to the boil.
Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the strawberries are soft. Push the mixture through a sieve and test for sweetness, if you like it a little sweeter then just stir through a teaspoon of icing sugar. Pour the sauce into a jug and serve.
Why not make some strawberry lollies, the kids will love them and so will you :) To make these delicious lollies you will need-
100g caster sugar
227g washed & hulled strawberries.
Lolly moulds and sticks.
Mix the sugar and water together in a small pan and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Blend the strawberries and the syrup together until smooth. Pour into lolly moulds, add the sticks then freeze for about 4 hours.
Try a Strawberry sorbet. Sorbets are more refreshing and lighter than ice creams. A great way to use all those fresh juicy fruits too.
175g / 6oz sugar
1/2 Orange, juice only
1 lemon, juice only
Punnet of Strawberries, stalks removed.
Put sugar into 475ml/16fl oz of water and gently heat until the sugar has melted. Leave to cool. Then stir in the citrus juices. In a blender whizz the strawberries and stir into the sugar syrup. Pour into a tub and freeze or about 6 hrs, making sure that you give the sorbet a good stir every 2hrs using a whisk or blender.
RASPBERRIES ~ Vividly pink and very delicate, fresh raspberries are a real treat. Fantastic served with a dusting of icing sugar and a lick of cream. Avoid raspberries with their hulls intact as they will be under-ripe and tart. Due to their hollow core raspberries are very fragile and should be handled with care. They do freeze very well: spread a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid before transferring to freezer bags to be enjoyed over the winter. Great for using in jams and cakes.
TUTTI FRUTTI JAM
A great jam that works well due to the combination of high-medium and low pectin content of the different fruit.-Makes 2.7kg / 6lb
450g blackcurrants, stripped from the stalks
450g redcurrants, stripped from stalks
450g strawberries, hulled
1.8kg granulated sugar
Place the blackcurrants and redcurrants in a large preserving pan with 150ml water. Bring to the boil then gently simmer for 15-20 minutes until the skins of the currant are soft. Add the strawberries and raspberries, simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until it has reached setting point. Pour into cooled, steriilsed jars and seal.
BLACKBERRIES ~The blackberry season spans the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. These berries are great used in Autumn puddings made by combining blackberries with the first apples of the season. They will make a lovely jam too. During World War One, children in England were given time off school to collect blackberries for the production of juice that was sent to soldiers to help maintain health.'Rubus fruticosus' is the Latin name for the European blackberry, also known as bramble. Its a highly adaptable and fast-growing shrub that's found in hedgerows, woodland, meadows and wasteland. I remember as kids we would go foraging for these juicy berries and get prickled by the brambles! The wild berries have a depth of flavour rarely rivaled by cultivated varieties. So I guess they are worth getting prickled for!
An extract from How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn:
"O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the wideness of that rich moment."
RED CURRANTS ~ are pretty, red juicy berries with a tart, sparkling flavour. Very good served with game or lamb dishes. Theses little berries are often used to add decoration to cakes - dip them in lightly whisked egg white then roll in sugar to give them a frosted effect.
BLACKCURRANTS ~ need to be cooked with a splash of water and a little sugar to bring out their flavour. Try using them in jams. Whole stems can be frozen, then shaken to remove the currants easily. During World War II when oranges were scarce, people were encouraged to grow and eat blackcurrants as they are extremely rich in vitamin C.
BLUEBERRIES ~ with a flavour that ranges from mildly sweet to tart and tangy, blueberries are bursting with nutrition and flavour while being very low in calories. Blueberries are at their best from May through October. Add these lush, dark berries to muffins, cheesecakes, pancakes, and blueberry pie.
GOOSEBERRIES ~ green gooseberries may be the most familiar, although they can also be red, yellow, or white. The green gooseberries are the best ones for cooking. The Red and yellow varieties are sweet enough to serve raw for dessert. Gooseberries can vary quite a bit in sharpness and will need sweetening to taste. Use the juicy ripe gooseberries to make a delicious gooseberry pie or gooseberry fool. Their high pectin content is a great for making jams, jellies and spicy chutneys. Even when unripe gooseberries are excellent for cooking. Their tangy flavour really suits oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, also goes well with pork and game too. Good flavour matches include elderflowers, apples, lemon, sorrel, fennel, mint and many more. A gooseberry and fennel sauce goes very well with mackerel.
Using firm fruit to make this jam gives a better flavour. The jam will keep unopened for at least 12 months if stored in a cool, dark place. Make around 3.5-4kg
Gooseberries, topped & tailed
Put the gooseberries and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until some of the skins have broken. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to boil for 8 minutes, then test for setting point.(see tips below) Leave to cool for 5 minues, stir and ladle into sterilized jars. seal immediately, label and date.
CRANBERRIES ~ Scarlet red, very tart little berries, which are their peak from October through December, just in time to add their festive hue and tart tangy flavour to holiday meal. Cranberries have also been called "bounceberries," because the ripe ones bounce! Cranberries are a low-growing, vining, woody perennial plant. Many cranberries are water-harvested. Water-harvesting means that the cranberries are grown in bogs and floated in water to allow for easy harvesting. Fresh ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 20 days. Cranberries freeze very well and once frozen, cranberries may be kept for several years. You will find dried cranberries sold in many groceries they can be found with other the dried fruits.
Use Cranberries to add colour and variety to your favourite recipes. To balance fresh cranberries tartness, combine them with other fruits such as oranges, apples, pineapple or pears. If desired, add a little fruit juice, honey or maple syrup to chopped fresh cranberries.
CRANBERRY, APPLE & PEAR CHUTNEY.
Great with a chunk of cheddar.
Makes about 1.4KG
2 Apples, peeled, cored & diced
2 Pears, peeled, cored & diced
2 large Onions, chopped
150g Dried Cranberries
1 tsp Cumin seeds
350g Demerara sugar
300ml Malt vinegar
Grated zest & the juice of a lemon
Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 35 mins or until there is no more excess liquid and the mixture has become thick and pulpy. Spoon into sterilized jars. Cover and seal. These will last for up to three months in a cool dark place. Once opened use within one month and store in the fridge.
CRANBERRY AND ORANGE SAUCE.
125g Brown sugar
zest & Juice of 3 Oranges
Put all the ingredients into a small pan and simmer gently for about 10-15 mins, until cranberries are soft, stirring occasionally. Best served hot, but this sauce can also be served cold with cold meats and ham.
~ TIPS ~
* TESTING FOR SETTING POINT
Temperature Test - Put a jam thermometer into centre of jam after about 8 minutes. Leave in position till the jam reaches 105C
Saucer Test- Drop 1 tsp of jam onto a chilled saucer and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. Push your finger through the jam- if the surface wrinkles,the jam is ready. Return to he heat and boil a little longer if required.
* STERILIZING JARS
Oven - Put washed jars on a baking sheet and heat at gas-1/ 140C/(120C fan oven) for 15 mins
Microwave- Quarter fill 4 jars with water and heat on high for 5 minutes. Tip out water and invert onto kitchen paper-lined tray.
Dishwasher- Run upturned jars through a hot cycle.