Who doesn’t love berries? All winter long, we dream about harvesting those first June strawberries or foraging for mid-summer’s wild blackberries. After you eat your fill of fresh, even the most die-hard berry enthusiasts often need a dose of culinary inspiration for new ways to use that berry harvest.
"Berries serve as my vitamin jar throughout the year,” says Clare Hintz, owner of Elsewhere Farm in Herbster, Wis., who grows a variety of perennial berries, including currants, aronia and gooseberries. "Berries are an easy way to add color, flavor and, importantly, nutrients to my dishes throughout the year. Who needs to buy vitamin C in the winter when I have preserved currants?”
This year, think beyond jam, and enjoy your berries by incorporating one or more of these ideas into your berry routine. Remember, these are just starter ideas—feel free to experiment beyond these suggestions to make the most of your harvest.
1. Berries ’n’ Milk
Pour cold milk over frozen whole berries for a healthier version of an ice-cream-like treat.
2. Berry Pops
Purée one part berries with one part vanilla yogurt and pour into ice-pop molds. Keep in the freezer for a summer-time treat.
3. Berry Salad Dressing
For a twist on your standard salad dressing, add berries. Experiment by blending together olive oil, vinegar, herbs and berries (either fresh or frozen) until you find a texture and flavor profile you enjoy.
4. Berry Juice
For easy juice, purée fresh berries in a blender. Strain out the solids, and use them as yogurt topping.
"I freeze my berry juice in ice-cube containers,” says Jamie Baker of Primrose Valley Farm in Belleville, Wis. "Each ice cube is the perfect size to be used in making small batches of flavorful salad dressing throughout the winter.” The cubes can also be melted down into a glass of juice any time of the year.
5. Easy Berry Dessert
For a super-easy, no-cook summer sauce, lightly toss fresh berries in sugar and let stand for 30 minutes. The sugar will naturally release some juice from the berries to form a light sauce.
6. Dessert Pizza
End your summer supper with a dessert pizza. Roll out your favorite sugar-cookie dough into a pizza pan—if you want a thicker crust, use a smaller pan; if you want a thinner crust, use a larger pan. Bake 8 to 15 minutes depending on size and desired crispiness. Whip 8 ounces cream cheese with 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar or 2 tablespoons honey. Spread over cooled cookie, and top with various fresh fruit. (Frozen fruit will be too runny.)
7. Cheesecake Sandwiches
This recipe is a lighter version of a berry dessert. Whip 8 ounces cream cheese with 2 tablespoons honey, and fold in 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries. Serve as a sweet spread with graham crackers.
8. Berry Parfait
Parfait away! Layer vanilla yogurt, granola, and fresh or frozen berries in a glass or bowl. A long, fluted champagne glass adds a classy touch to parties or brunch.
9. Berry Sherbet
Purée fresh or frozen berries in a blender, and slowly add milk to achieve a creamy consistency. Freeze, or process in an ice cream maker if you have one, for homespun fruit sherbet.
10. PB&B Sandwiches
Instead of using jam on your next peanut butter sandwich, sprinkle on fresh berries instead.
11. Berries on a Log
Put a berry twist on the traditional "ants on a log” snack. Spread peanut butter inside a celery stick, and stick on whole fresh berries, like blueberries, in place of raisins.
12. Berry Salsa
Diversify your next batch of salsa with berries. Mix berries—slicing larger berries, like strawberries—diced citrus or tropical fruit (like pineapple or mango), diced red onion and diced jalapeño peppers. Adjust the amount of jalapeño according to your preferred heat level, and don’t forget to use gloves while slicing. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and salt, and serve with tortilla chips.
13. Berry Butter
Whip 1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter with 1/4 cup sugar. When well blended, add in 1/4 cup fresh or frozen berries. If using frozen berries, drain off the excess water so butter doesn’t get too runny.
14. Ice Cubes
Add frozen, whole berries to a pitcher of sangria or a glass of seltzer water for a colorful, flavorful alternative to ice cubes.
15. Liquor Infusion
Create a German "rumtopf” (rum pot), a traditional way to preserve a variety of seasonal berries. In a clean, sterilized jar, layer fresh berries as they’re harvested. Sprinkle each layer with sugar and pour on enough rum to cover the berries by 1 inch. Store in the refrigerator, continuing to add berry layers throughout the summer. Avoid using blackberries and blueberries, as they tend to discolor. By fall, you’ll have a tasty topping for desserts and vanilla ice cream along with a flavor-infused rum for sipping.
16. Face Masks
Don’t forget to feed your skin. Berries make inexpensive, all-natural face masks rich in antioxidants. Blend 1/2 cup berries with either 2 tablespoons yogurt for dry skin or 2 tablespoons honey for oily skin. Lay down (as the mask can get runny), and spread the mixture over your face. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.
17. Vehicle for Chocolate
Last but not least, you can’t beat any fresh berry dipped in chocolate!
About the Author: Lisa Kivirist farms, writes and runs a highly diversified operation from Inn Serendipity, her family’s farm and bed-and-breakfast in Wisconsin. She is co-author of the award-winning book ECOpreneuring (New Society Publishers, 2008), Rural Renaissance (New Society Publishers, 2009) and Farmstead Chef (New Society Publishers, 2011).