Having grown up in Oregon, a state famous for its prodigious berry selection, I learned early on that the best thing you can do with a berry is to (drum roll) just. eat. it. However, that would make this blog post rather uninspiring, so…
Most folks showcase berries’ goodness in muffins, cobbler and pie, but I’ll be honest with you — I don’t really do a whole lot of baking with fresh summer berries. Peak-season berries are pretty much perfection as they are and, honestly, the last thing I’m thinking about doing on an 80°-plus day is turning on my oven.
Besides, baking is just NOT my strong point (you could do serious damage with good aim and one of my cakes), so I’m always interested in tips that don’t require careful measurement and a gentle touch.
Here are my six quick tips for easy ways to enjoy summer’s sweetest pleasures:
Freezing berries during the summer not only supplies with you plenty of ice-cool treats to beat the heat, it also guarantees you’ll have some peak season berries long after the summer ends (IF you don’t eat them all first).
Be sure to carefully wash and dry your berries (I suggest folding them up in a clean kitchen towel and gently rolling) and remove the leaves and hulls from strawberries before freezing.
- Use frozen berries instead of ice cubes to keep summery beverages cold, colorful and tasty
- Use frozen berries to add body and flavor to smoothies, milkshakes or frozen cocktails
Marinating (or macerating) is a great way to amplify berries’ best points; it draws out their flavorful juices and plays up the fruit’s sweet-tart nature.
The most common technique is to toss berries with lemon juice and sugar — and it’s no wonder why. The acid and sugar break down the berries, producing a vibrant, flavorful mixture that’s ready to be piled into a graham-cracker crust or spooned over ice cream, plain yogurt, pancakes… the list goes on.
- Toss strawberries in good-quality aged balsamic vinegar with a pinch of sugar and salt, let it rest for a few hours, then layer with mascarpone cheese and crushed amaretti cookies for an effortless Italian dessert (use shortbread cookies if you can’t find amaretti).
- Toss blueberries or blackberries with lemon juice, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of kosher salt, let it rest, then serve on the side of grilled salmon or pork. The berries’ natural tartness makes a tasty contrast to the grilled meats’ rich flavor.
Get ‘em tipsy
Berries go a long way when paired with wine and spirits. Much like marinating, alcohol helps release berries’ flavors and juices.
- Infuse vodka with chopped up berries for a summery spirit that’s perfect for al fresco cocktails! Mix your berry elixir with club soda, a dash of simple syrup and a squeeze of lemon. Serve neat or on the rocks — it’ll rock your socks off!
- Spoon mashed raspberries or strawberries into a champagne flute and slowly top with sparkling wine. The result is a gorgeous, subtly-flavored aperitif that instantly sets a festive mood at your next party.
Check out all of our One-Click Recipes that feature berries!