What’s my favorite thing about summer?
That’s a tough one. Sure, I love the long, sunny, warm days…trips to the beach…impromptu picnics in the park. I love not having to get up as early or rush the kids to a freezing-cold car.
But my very favorite thing about summer? just might be berries.
I’ve rarely met a berry I didn’t love. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries…I celebrate them all. Sweet and tart, bright and fresh, they’re like a little burst of sunshine in a small package. Plus, berries are a nutritional powerhouse.
Here are three ways I’m enjoying this summer’s crop of beautiful berries:
Jams, jellies and preserves: If you’re looking for a way to get started canning, you can’t go wrong starting with strawberry jam. I “put up” 12 pint-sized jars a couple of weeks ago using a simple recipe on the back of the pectin container (you can get pectin at your local grocery store) and it was fun and easy even though I’m a relative beginner.
I like the low-sugar recipes as they allow the berry’s flavor to really shine. The only bad thing is that the resulting jam is so delicious, my kids have already gone through 3 jars! Guess I’ll have to make more before local berries are all gone.
If you aren’t up for hot-water canning, you can also try this super-simple freezer jam recipe.
Fresh Dessert: It really doesn’t get simpler or more delicious: pile fresh berries (whole blueberries, blackberries or raspberries; sliced strawberries) into a store-bought shortcake cup, or if you’re feeling more ambitious, try making real shortcake biscuit or pound cake (heavier than angel-food cake, but so heavenly.)
For topping: put a container of heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl with a few teaspoons of sugar and a dash of vanilla, then beat until the cream becomes fluffy and forms peaks. I like to use my immersion blender for this job, but you can use a regular beater or stand mixer. Top and serve!
Salads: I love berries in salad. They are a great complement to savory ingredients and give the salad a light, fresh flavor. The summer salad I most love to make includes spring mix, sliced strawberries, feta cheese, pine nuts (toasted for a few moments in a dry pan over medium heat to bring out the flavor) and a light raspberry vinaigrette, either store-bought or homemade. It’s sweet, tangy, and savory all at once, and so summery.
I’ve also been inspired by Wendy’s new Berry Almond Chicken Salad – it features blueberries, strawberries, Asiago cheese, chicken breast and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing over field greens and is seriously yummy. Which just goes to show you that there are endless ways to incorporate berries into salads.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy berries?