Indigenous Ingredients | Berries

A berry is a stoneless fruit containing seeds grown on shrubs or vines.

Berries are beneficial because they contain vitamin C, and when they are cooked this is always a crucial consideration in the manufacture of the dish, whether savoury or sweet.

Grape is essentially a berry, though hardly thought as one anymore now that most grapes are used to make wine.

Elderberry is one of the few berry varieties used to make artisan wine.

Ashberries, bilberries, blackberries, blueberries, redberries and raspberries still grow wild in most European countries and are generally eaten raw.

The habit of making jam and jelly from berries in the home is gradually dying out in Europe.

Although cranberries are grown wild in the Baltic countries, most cranberries sold commercially in Europe are imported from north America. Cultivated cranberries grown in the Baltics are also of the American variety. Latvians worry that their famous confections will use only the cultivated and not the wild berry, because there are less of the latter.

In Ireland and Scotland, where the making of rowan jelly in the home was common among upland communities, an artisan industry is being to develop.

One berry that is having a huge rennaisance is the juniper, largely because of the influence of northern European cooking on the rest of Europe.

Unlike the wood strawberry, hardly seen and seldom recognised, and now supplanted by the commercial variety.


BLUEBERRY

Pepparkakor med Blåbär Grädde

  • 250 g blueberries, mashed
  • 250 g cream
  • 16 gingersnaps
  • 30 g icing sugar
  • 15 g vanilla sugar
  • 16 blueberries, whole

Whip sugars into the cream. Gently fold blueberry mash into the cream. Arrange gingersnaps on a large plate. Pipe blueberry cream onto gingersnaps, top with blueberries.

CRANBERRY | LINGONBERRY

Puolukkaliemi

  • 500 g lingonberries / cranberries
  • 150 ml water
  • 50 g cornflour
  • 50 g sugar

Half cover berries in water, boil until wilted, add sugar, reduce heat, cook until sugar is dissolved.
Blend cornflour with a tablespoon of cold water, add to berry mixture and bring to the boil, stirring for several minutes.

Pour into wet moulds and leave to set.

Serve with whipped cream.


Debessmanna

  • 600 ml water
  • 150 g cranberries, washed
  • 100 g sugar
  • 20 g potato flour / semolina

Crush cranberries, squeeze and retain juice.

Boil cranberries in water in a saucepan for five minutes, strain liquid. Discard solids.

Mix the potato starch or semolina in a little water.

Dissolve the sugar in the cranberry liquid over a low heat, add potato starch/semolina paste, and increase the heat.

Bring to the boil. Stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken.

Remove from heat, add cranberry juice and whip into a foam. Pour into a bowl, leave to cool.

For a thick cranberry paste, keep the solids and triple the amount of potato starch / semolina.


ELDERBERRY

Elderberry wine was popular in the 1970s when English duo Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote, ‘drunk all the time, feeling fine, on elderberry wine’ among the lyrics of a song that appeared on Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player.


JUNIPER

Dried berries of evergreen shrups, they are added to game, meat and vegetables dishes, used in marinades. An ingredient in the making of sauerkraut. Also used in game pies and terrines. Used to impart flavour to strong sauces from the Roman era.

East Anglian Rabbit Casserole

Butchers in the south-eastern English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk frequently sell rabbit ready for the pot.

Clever cooks slow cook it in a casserole with berries and herbs.

The amounts for berries and herbs should be raised if an exceptionally strong flavour is required.

  • 1 rabbit, jointed
  • 1 kg cider / vegetable stock
  • 100 g celery, chopped
  • 100 g onions, chopped small
  • 100 g streaky bacon, cubed
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 15 g juniper berries, crushed
  • 10 g cranberries, whole
  • 10 g red berries, whole
  • 10 g lovage, chopped
  • 5 g sage, large leaves
  • 5 g rosemary, chopped
  • 5 g thyme
  • 5 g marjoram
  • Salt, pinch
  • Oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Brown rabbit pieces in oil in a hot frying pan, place in a deep casserole dish.

Sauté celery and onions in same pan over a medium heat for ten minutes, add bacon and garlic, reduce heat, fry until the bacon begins to crisp.

Spoon the fried mixture into the casserole, add berries and herbs, pour in the cider or stock, making sure the rabbit is covered. Use extra liquid if necessary.

Bake for two and a half hours.


Zuurkool met Worst

Traditionally this dish was made with fresh sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was simmered in salted water for 30 minutes, then sliced potatoes and whole sausages were added until cooked.

White beans replaced potatoes in some recipes.

Gradually this recipe morphed into a stamppot.

The potatoes were mashed after being cooked. Onions were fried with smoked bacon in butter. The sausages were fried and braised.

Modern versions of zuurkool met worst tend to be bittersweet and savoury.

  • 700 g smoked sausage, thick sliced
  • 600 g sauerkraut, rinsed, drained
  • 100 g bacon, diced
  • 75 g brown sugar
  • 2 apples, cored, peeled, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 15 g caraway seeds
  • 12 juniper berries
  • Butter, for greasing

In a heavy bottomed pot place apple, caraway, juniper, sauerkraut and sugar, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for two hours over a low heat.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease a wide baking tray.

Fry bacon and onion over a high heat until both are crispy and caramelised. Add to sauerkraut mixture.

Fry sausage pieces over a high heat.

Add to sauerkraut mixture.

Pour into tray, bake for an hour.


RASPBERRY

A flavouring for desserts and ice cream, raspberries are used to make jam, jelly and wine.

Barquettes aux Framboises | Raspberry Flan

The French make boat-shaped tartlets using puff pastry, while the English make a flan case with shortcrust pastry.

But it is the content and method with the filling that counts.

  • 375 g raspberries, cold, coated in warm raspberry jelly
  • 250 ml double cream, whipped
  • 50 g confectioners custard
  • 50 g gooseberry jam, heated

Spoon a thin layer of gooseberry jam into required vessel/s. Leave to cool.

Put a layer of custard on top of the gooseberry layer followed by the cream and finally the raspberries.

Allow to cool further before serving.


ROWANBERRY

Rowan jelly is arguably the oldest dessert in northern Europe, where the rowan tree continues to thrive.

It has become popular again, with new cuisine chefs using it as a bittersweet preserve to accompany cold game cuts.

But its use as a dessert among the many berry confections now common in European kitchens is more revelant, especially now that its health benefits are widely known.

The berries appear in summer and will continue to fruit until January, depending on the climate. They are at their best picked ripe, in stalks before the birds get them.

The jelly is generally made with rowan berries and wild apples, with sugar countering the acidic tartness of the fruit. Traditionally it was made with just the berries and sugar, lemon and spices making their way into modern recipes.


Rowan Jelly – 1

  • 1.5 kg rowan berries, washed
  • 750 ml water, approximately
  • 500 g sugar per 500 ml berry juice

Put berries in a deep pot, add sufficient water to three-quarter cover them. Simmer over a low heat until berries are softened and lost their colour and shape, about 20 minutes.

Mash the pulp.

Spoon pulp and juice onto muslin in a large sieve over a deep bowl. Strain overnight.

Weigh juice and match with an equal amount of sugar.

Put juice and sugar in a large heavy bottomed pot, bring slowly to a low boil.

When the sugar is dissolved turn heat up and boil for five minutes.

Test solidity of jelly on a cold plate.

Boil for another five minutes if it is too thin or not thick enough for your purpose.

Use as a fruit jelly with hard fruits or with sponges.


Rowan Jelly – 2

  • 1 kg rowan berries
  • 500 g sugar, approximately
  • 500 ml water
  • 2 oranges, juice, peel and zest
  • 50 g mint leaves
  • 20 g carrageen

Cut orange peel into small pieces, soak in water for an hour.

Put carrageen, berries, mint, orange juice and peel, and the orange water in a deep pot. Simmer over a low heat until fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.

Mash the pulp.

Spoon pulp and juice onto muslin in a large sieve over a deep bowl. Strain overnight.

Weigh juice and match with sugar.

Put juice and sugar in a large heavy bottomed pot, bring slowly to a low boil.

When the sugar is dissolved turn heat up and boil for five minutes.

Test solidity of jelly on a cold plate.

Sterilise jars and dry in oven at 100°C for ten minutes.

Put hot jelly in hot jars, seal and cool completely before labelling.


Rowan Jelly – 3

  • 2 kg rowan berries, washed
  • 1.5 kg cooking apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1 litre water, approximately
  • 450 g sugar per 600 ml juice

Put fruit in a deep pot, add sufficient water to almost cover them. Simmer over a low heat until fruit is soft, about 25 minutes.

Mash the pulp.

Spoon pulp and juice onto muslin in a large sieve over a deep bowl. Strain overnight.

Weigh juice and match with sugar at a 3-4 ratio or 75% of juice.

Put juice and sugar in a large heavy bottomed pot, bring slowly to a low boil.

When the sugar is dissolved turn heat up and boil for five minutes.

Test solidity of jelly on a cold plate.

Sterilise jars and dry in oven at 100°C for ten minutes.

Put hot jelly in hot jars, seal and cool completely before labelling.


STRAWBERRY

Strawberry Mousse Glacée à la Gorella Fraise

  • 1 litre cream, whipped
  • 1 litre sugar
  • 900 g wild strawberries, puréed and sieved (latter, optional)
  • 550 ml water

Dissolve sugar in water, bring to a low boil and cook into a thick syrup.

Remove from heat.

Gradually add strawberry purée to the syrup, then fold in the cream.


Traditional Berry Dishes

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Blackberry Purée

Blueberry / Bilberry Cheesecake

Confiture de Mûres

Gelée de Groseilles

Gelée de Groseilles à Maquereau

Gooseberry Fool

Gooseberry Trifle

Redberry Jelly

Sorbet à la Groseilles

Sauce aux Groseilles à Maquereau

Tartelettes aux Mûres


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