Bountiful Berry Harvest
This article was written by Amanda Formano from The Family Corner. Visit her website for delicious recipes and more.
With summer comes berries, fresh berries on the vine that is. So what to do with the bushels full of ripe blackberries and raspberries you've harvested? Below you'll find a few delicious recipes and instructions for freezing these delicious berries.
Happily, berries can be frozen successfully. You can pack your fruit without a sweetener if you wish to eat the fruit raw when partially thawed or if you plan to use it in pies or other cooked dishes. But you'll find that most fruits will taste better and retain their shapes best if some sugar or syrup is added. You can add sugar directly to the fruit before freezing by gently mixing the two together with a spatula until fruit juices flow and sugar dissolves (usually about 1 part sugar to 4 to 5 parts fruit by weight). You can also pack the berries in syrup before freezing by using the syrup recipes above. Place berries into container or storage bag and pour cold syrup over the top of the fruit. Leave 1/2 - 3/4 head space in containers, squeeze all excess air out of storage bags, then freeze. Use within 3 months.
Making Fruit Leather
This age-old process couldn't be simpler. The lightly sweetened purees of fruits and berries, spread in thin layers and left in the sun, dry into translucent sheets of fruit that are chewy and good. Here's how you can make your own fruit leathers.
You need only a smooth level surface, such as a table; a place to put it in full sun; and a roll of clear plastic wrap. Tear off strips of the wrap, stretch it across the drying surface, and fasten with cellophane tape. To keep the fruit clean while drying, stretch a sheet of cheesecloth over it; you can secure it to two 2 by 4-inch boards on either side, taking care to keep it from touching the puree.
Wash fruit and prepare each as directed below; it should be fully ripe. Cut away any blemishes; then measure (up to 5 pints for any one batch). Add sugar and heat as directed. Remove from heat and whirl (part at a time, if necessary) in a blender or put through a food mill or wire strainer; cool to lukewarm. Pour puree onto prepared surface and spread to 1/2 inch thick (a full 5-pint batch covers a 30-inch-long strip of 12-inch-wide plastic film).
Remove stems and measure whole berries; use 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar for each cup raspberries (1 cup for 5 pints), or 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar for each cup blackberries (1 1/2 cups sugar for 5 pints). Boil berries, stirring, until liquid appears syrupy; then put through a food mill or wire strainer to remove some of the seeds; spread the berries about 3/16 inch thick.
It may take 20 to 24 hours to dry, depending on the fruit and the sun's heat. By the end of the first day it should be dry enough that you can loosen tape, slip a baking sheet underneath, and carry it inside; return to sun the next morning. When firm to touch, try peeling the fruit sheet off the plastic. It is sufficiently dry when the whole sheet can be pulled off the plastic without puree adhering. (Don't leave in sun longer than needed.) In humid climates, you may need to finish the drying indoors. Set the sheets of fruit on pans in a 140-150 degree (F) oven and leave oven door slightly open.
Roll up sheets of fruit leather, while on plastic film, then cover that with more plastic and seal tightly. Color and flavor keep well about one month at room temperature, four months in refrigerator, or one year if frozen.
Many of the recipes included here call for raspberry or blackberry jam. To make your own jam is quite simple. Here's how:
Easy Raspberry Jam
3 cups raspberries
3 cups sugar
Mash berries in a saucepan and stir in sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and beat with a wire whip or mixer for 6 minutes. Pour into jars and allow to cool. If not canning, keep stored in refrigerator.
Some recipes to enjoy with your over abundance of jam!
Blackberry Jam Cake
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup blackberry jam
1 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, and allspice. Dissolve soda in buttermilk, stirring well. Cream butter or margarine and sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, beating mixture well. Mix flour mixture into the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in blackberry jam. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10 inch bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool completely.
Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, butter or margarine, and vanilla. Beat until mixture is smooth. Spoon over cooled cake.
Old Fashioned Blackberry Spice Cake
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, beaten 3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each, ground: cloves, nutmeg, ginger
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups blackberry jam
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, cloves, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating well after each addition, beginning and ending with flour. Beat in jam. Stir in nuts by hand.
Pour batter evenly into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pans; turn out onto wire racks. Cool completely. Use a 7 minute frosting or a cream cheese icing with this cake. Caramel frosting is good too.
Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg yolk
NOTE: This makes a LOT of cookies! You can cut this dough in half, use one half, and freeze the other for another time.
Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Press thumb into centers of cookies, making deep indentations. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Remove from oven, and with 1/3 cup red raspberry preserves* fill indentations. Bake 5 minutes; immediately remove and cool cookies on racks.
*You can vary this recipe by using different strawberry, mixed berry and boysenberry all with excellent results.
Raspberry Meringue Bars
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter -- cut in pieces
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups red raspberry jam
1 cup chopped nuts
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
In large bowl of mixer, beat together the first 6 ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pat mixture on the bottom and 1-inch up sides of a buttered 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 350 F. for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Spoon red raspberry jam mixed with 1 cup chopped nuts evenly on crust. Beat the egg whites until foamy; slowly add the 1 cup sugar and continue beating till meringue is thick. Fold in the coconut until blended well. Spread meringue evenly over all and bake at 350 F. for about 30 minutes or until meringue is dry and lightly browned. Cover pan with foil and allow to cool. To serve, cut in 1-1/2" squares.
Amanda Formaro is the entrepreneurial mother of four children. She and her husband live in southern Nevada. She is also the owner of familycorner.com magazine at http://familycorner.com.