Well, it’s here! The big Fourth of July celebrations are upon us; I hope everyone has a safe, relaxing holiday! I want to send out a special Happy Birthday wish to my brother, Scott (aka Scoot) who, like our Uncle Sam, was born on the Fourth of July! While we will hopefully have a very hot, wonderful weekend, before we know it we (well, most of us, anyway) will have to get back to work, and that may leave us feeling a little blue. I have a great way to deal with that feeling…why not go buy some fresh berries??
Most berries are available year round, being grown in warmer climates when we are enduring not so warm weather, but nothing beats homegrown berries. Most berries are grown on bushes and are very easy to pick. I remember my grandmother taking me to pick blueberries at a farm in East Otto, NY, of all places. With any sort of “you pick” fruit farms, I’m always glad the picker isn’t weighed before and after the picking! It is just so tempting to pop those fresh ripe berries into your mouth, it becomes a reflex action! One in the basket, one in my mouth…
I love berries any way they are prepared…in a fruit bowl, in a pie, as jam or in a big ole’ berry muffin (sided with a hot cup of coffee, of course, to be enjoyed after I‘ve been up for three or four hours!).
Blueberries fall into the group of fruits considered “super-fruits” because of their high antioxidant value. This makes them extra appealing to me, because anytime I can sneak something healthy into my menus, I consider it a bonus!
As with all produce, berries are the best when they are fresh, but they can be frozen very easily, by simply rinsing them, laying them out in a single layer on a baking tray and freezing until hard. Once they are frozen, they can be placed in a zip lock bag and returned to the freezer for future use. By freezing them this way, you can simply remove the portion you want and return the rest to the freezer; the berries don’t need to be thawed before using, either. By adding them to your recipe frozen, they will retain their shape and not mush and turn everything red or blue!
I always try to keep fruit on hand, preserved in this manner; you can freeze most any berry like this. Frozen berries make a fun alternative or addition to ice cubes, too. I like to garnish cocktails and punch bowls with a few frozen berries to add both color and coolness to my beverages. I also like to make ice cubes and punch rings out of a light colored fruit juice to which I have added berries and a sprig or two of fresh herbs. By using juice rather than water to make the ice cubes, your drinks will not be watered down when the ice melts!
Summery Herbed Berry Lemonade
- 9 C water
- 2 C lemon juice (fresh squeezed if desired!)
- 2 C sugar
- Sliced lemons and fresh berries
- Basil, Spearmint leaves, Rosemary, Dill
Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a small sauce pan. Add sugar to boiling water, stirring to dissolve. Set aside to cool.
Mix remaining water and lemon juice with sugar water. Pour lemonade into an ice cube tray and add berries and fresh herbs to each cube. Freeze ice cubes and chill remaining lemonade overnight to allow herbs to infuse lemonade.
Serve lemonade, using ice, additional lemon slices, fresh berries and sprigs of herbs as garnish.
My favorite Blueberry Pie
Pastry for double crust pie (either homemade or store bought!)
- 1 C sugar
- ¼ C flour*
- ½ t finely shredded lemon peal
- Dash salt
- 5 C fresh or fresh frozen blueberries
- 2 t lemon juice
- 1 T butter
In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, lemon peal and slat. Add sugar mixture to blueberries and toss to coat fruit. Fill a pastry lined pie plate with the berry mixture. Drizzle with lemon juice and dot with butter. Adjust top crust and flute to seal edge.
Bake at 375* for 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting.
* If you are using frozen berries, increase flour to 1/3 cup!