Berry season has always been a favorite time of the year – sweet juicy berries thick in the meadows and along the edges of the woods.Â By now, many pick-your-own strawberry farms in my area of eastern North Carolina are ready for early harvesting, and folks are getting ready to put up!
Berries of all kinds make my list. I love to pick and eat deeply colored pump blackberries warm in the sun, rich red strawberries and raspberries, to cook and make into preserves.Â Jams and jellies from seasonal berries are gems to be preserved and enjoyed even in the darkest part of winter. It can be hard to remember not to snack too much while harvesting my berries.
While growing up I enjoyed and learned to Â make a great variety of jellies, jams, and butters from seasonal berries and fruit.Â (A purchased favorite is Lehmanâ€™s â€œBumbleberry Jamâ€, a blend of berry goodness!)
My favorite way to use berries is to get them to the table when theyâ€™re just picked and wonderfully fresh. Because berries are best used as soon after harvest as possible, they are ideal for purchasing locally â€“ support your local farmerâ€™s markets throughout the growing season!
Eating a diet that includes the colors of the rainbow is a healthy diet that offers us the variety we enjoy.Â Berries can be used both as savory and dessert ingredients.
A Classic – Old Fashioned – 2 Layer Fresh-Strawberry Shortcake
3 pints of fresh strawberries
Â½ 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 â€“ Lard was the original shortening used â€“ I use Criscoâ„¢
1 egg – beaten
2/3 cup cold milk
2 cups whipped heavy cream (Donâ€™t cut corners here. Use the real thing.)
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 also fun to work with â€“ they are a big change from the berries we are used to on the east coast.Â I find them all year at my local Whole Foodsâ„¢.Â Chutney is a favorite in my central North Carolina area. 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.Â (Thank you to Gingerich Farms for their gooseberry information)
Â I love this smoothie for a breakfast on the go â€“ No added sugar is a big help if youâ€™re diabetic like I am. The yogurt makes it nice and smooth.
Red Mulberry Smoothie
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
Â½ to 1 cup fresh or frozen red mulberries
Frozen ripe banana â€“ frozen in slices â€“ (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.