Monday, September 19, 2011

UnRecipe: Berries Gone Wild

The end of summer signals one significant thing -- load up on Vitamin D pills, because the sun is disappearing for months and you don't want to get rickets. Oh yeah... and there's lots of berries in season!

Berry gory looking dessert you've got there - Photo by Wasabi Prime

While an alarmingly gory color and texture, this is blackberry jam spooned over some Greek yogurt, and not some disturbing dessert that one of the vampires from True Blood might eat. And contrary to the name, the berry is not black at all, but, duh, like that's a surprise. It's wickedly magenta-hued, especially when you start cooking the berries down for jam, which is what I did recently. The nice thing about blackberries is that they are free, minus a little bit of manual labor. I was off the hook, as Mr. Wasabi's family was in town and while I was out, they spent an afternoon picking blackberries from a wall of scruff that's growing down our street on an empty lot. It's probably private property or city-owned, but everyone heads there, as it's got full-sun, the berries ripen there pretty fast, and no one's called the Duvall Five-0 about our renegade gang of berry pickers. Yet. Having three people picking berries at once means you end up with several pounds of the stuff. They weren't super-sweet, but they were super-free and even tart berries can make for good jam.

We be jammin' at Wasabi's - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So I jammed-out for a morning, washing the berries and just throwing them into a large pot to cook down. I like keeping it a little chunky, so I don't totally cook them into a smooth pulp, plus I keep the seeds in, so it's quite a textural wonderland. Just remember to floss. Because they were tart, I added sugar, maybe a cup's worth to several pounds' worth of berries; not to make it candy-sweet, but something to take the edge off that sourness. I didn't have a primary goal in mind for the jam, I just knew if I didn't cook them down, blackberries are so delicate and moisture-prone, they would mold wicked-fast. Lately, we've been using it on yogurt and ice cream. At the moment, I have a batch of peanut butter custard chilling out, awaiting the final churn to make it into ice cream, and I'm going to mix ribbons of the last bits of jam in the final stage, right before it freezes. While I've never been a fan of PB and J sandwiches (I was more of a PB and honey sandwich kind of girl), I think as an ice cream, it will be quite a treat. Unfortunately the finished product wasn't ready at the time of this post, but stay tuned, I'm sure I'll post pictures of the peanut butter and jelly ice cream on Twittter, Flickr and/or Facebook. (Post Script - since this post was written/published, the ice cream has been made and nearly gobbled up! Will likely do a post later, but here's a peek, if you want to see an early photo, on my Flickr page.)

Farmers market Smurfberry ice cream - Photos by Wasabi Prime

A berry ice cream I made a little while ago and did take photos of, was a boysenberry and blueberry ice cream. This was supposed to be a vanilla ice cream with ribbons of boysenberry-blueberry jam mixed in. But I got overeager and churned the jam with the ice cream and wound up with Smurf Ice Cream. Lesson learned; drizzle the jam in after the ice cream is churned, layering and swirling the jam with the churned ice cream. Got it. Much thanks to Alexandra Hedin for the tip; she's always got the good kitchen advice! The color was a very intense purple-blue, but the ice cream was good. It just looked a little unreal and I think your brain kept sending signals to the tastebuds to expect bubblegum grape flavor. I had picked up several containers of enormous blueberries and a basket of ridiculously large, plump boysenberries at the farmers market and was so excited to use them. So excited, I made an ice cream that looked like I ground up Smurfs to make it. Have a Smurfy day yourself, you annoying little blue buggers.

Do you know the Muffin Man? Would you like to? - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I saved enough of the blueberries to make my favorite blueberry pecan muffins. This is a bit of a nostalgic recipe for me, as it was featured on one of my earlier posts. It wasn't my recipe, it was originally from one of my favorite blogs, Omnomicon, who offered it up as one of the best blueberry muffin recipes EVER. And I have to admit, it's pretty dang good. Crunchy pecans with big bites of blueberry, all mixed in with a really moist, dense cake. Granted, my first attempt at it was a fail, as I fooled with the recipe, using whole wheat flour and yogurt instead of buttermilk. Don't mess with baking recipes, they bite you in the derriere. I made it again, they came out great, and since then, this has been one of my favorite "company" recipes, when people are visiting and it's more than just Mr. Wasabi and I to eat these dangerously delicious things. I think they bake up especially well in the giant Texas-sized muffin tins, since the larger size is in better proportion to the big berries and chunky pecans. They also photograph nicely. But then you wind up with muffins the size of small cakes, and you feel twice as guilty for eating a whole one all by yourself. Well, maybe not that guilty...

Berries for all... even a stalking Indy - Photos by Wasabi Prime

So, that was our berry season in a nutshell. It's nice to enjoy fruits in the height of their season, you take full advantage of their freshness and kind of wear yourself out from the experience until the next year, which is sort of the point. It keeps you from being tempted to buy blueberries in the middle of winter, which probably came from some other continent. Until next year then, berries...So long and thanks for all the antioxidants.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)