Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Berry Wonderful

That's the name suggested for the dessert I concocted the first night my in-laws were here. I say concocted because I threw it together with no recipe. *gasp* It was blackberries covered in streusel and roasted at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so. A scoop of that went over vanilla ice cream. A revelation.

The next night I made my raspberry tart. But I couldn't find those darned cookies that you are supposed to use for the crust. They are always up, tippy-toe high on the shelves in the store because they are expensive and esoteric; you must have your nose in the air to see them. So I made my own chocolate crust. Naturally, I felt quite cool and competent making my own, but it didn't taste the same. It was far from the same, in fact. Not chocolaty enough, not crumbly enough. Not enough. The filling was divine, of course, but I like a tart to be the complete package.

Berry season is booming. The strawberries were fantastic in June, and the blackberries and marionberries have been great in July. That reminds me of marionberry season a couple of years ago: a travesty. The local berry stand, Spooner's, had people queueing up before they even opened at 9:30am. Customers were limited to one flat, if they even wanted that much. And we all know what happens when there is a shortage: hoarding. The rest of us, who showed up at 10:30 with a toddler in tow, got nary a 1/2-pint to enjoy. This year, thankfully, berries are plentiful.

So I went a little bit nuts with the jamming. I speak in the past tense, but I guess there are still fruits to exploit. Figs sound nice. And, naturally, I will get the jars out for apple and pear butters. Alas, alack, no plums from my neighbor this year! She said she got no fruit! Horrible. Plum butter is delicious and there is but a teaspoonful left in my fridge.

Not only did I jam, but I also found other ways to enjoy the berry wonderful bounty. I like a plain ol' bowlful of berries, myself, but Sam had a fantastic idea: (homemade) toasted brioche with creme fraiche and berries.

This is my third jamming year. I jam with purchased fruit, which feels like a cheat. You are supposed to put up the glut of your fields, right? I do pickle my glut. But the fruit preserves are sometime in the future, I'm afraid. The squirrels ate all my strawberries and the birds ate all my blueberries. There aren't enough raspberries, but I don't like to jam those anyway. Raspberries are for picking and eating, bugs and all. I could visit a U-pick, but that involves, ug, planning and dragging the kids along. And I am looking for poundage, not an activity where I can joyously snap photos of the kids picking berries while I walk away with a wee 1/2-pint.

This year, I realized that I like jam, not preserves. I like a smooth texture, rather than chunky. I won't take it so far as to remove the seeds from berries - that would be insane; that would be franken-jam. Oh, hang on; I do like cherry preserves. I made those last year and they came out delicious - fabulous on oatmeal. Oh, now that I think of it, spiced peaches too. But berries look awful. All my jams are bright and lovely this year. My (step?) mother-in-law noted that preserved strawberries look like little organs - all gray-purple, floating in a thick, sanguineous liquid. So true. So disturbingly true.

Speaking of color change, I just hate what happens to my pickles. I had beautiful, multi-colored beans that all look greenish after canning. Ah well. Chemical reactions, right? What is there to do?

I delivered jam to my neighbors. That was fun. The man next door, who is about 83, smiles like a schoolboy when I bring him goodies. Kills me. I hope he lives forever. And it is always best to take Sam along while delivering because he asks to go inside people's houses - which I won't do, but I would like to do. I have been inside several houses I don't think I would have made it into without him. I like to look at the pictures on the wall and the magazines piled on the coffee table. Who doesn't? I usually get a couple of good stories out of a visit, at least. This time I got that plus frozen rhubarb! And a promise of home-roasted coffee beans!

The moral of the story: Share with your neighbors.

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