Enjoy the season's sweet fruits year-round
While we're still in a season chock full of a variety of fruits, it's easy to forget that, in a few months, our options will be limited. You know you'd love to chow down on summer berries come February, so plan ahead now to enjoy flavorful bites when the cold arrives.
Changing the harvesting schedules—and geographic climates—is a bit beyond the scope of the average home cook, but there are a few different ways you can enjoy seasonal berries while the getting's good and preserve them for use throughout the year. By freezing, making jam, compotes, and compound butters, you can snack on these sweet flavors anytime.
Freeze berries yourself to ensure you're getting the highest quality at their peak instead of in commercial varieties where the berries may not have been frozen at their summer best.
1. Wash and thoroughly air-dry fresh berries. Discard any berries that are torn, bruised, or mushy because those fruits will stick together when frozen.
2. Trim away any stems and greens from the berries, including strawberry tops.
3. Scatter berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for an hour. This ensures that the berries don't freeze together in a gigantic blob.
4. Transfer the berries to a plastic bag and push all the air out. Seal and date the bag so you know when to use. Berries will last for up to six months.
Jam and Compotes
Jams and compotes are both a type of preserve and they're exceptionally easy to make on your own. A jam is made from whole crushed fruit, water, and a little added sugar. The mixture is cooked down until it's thick and spreadable. A compote is the same as a jam except the fruit is kept whole. Compotes are more like toppings than spreads.
1. Wash, dry, and trim a pound of berries. For larger berries like strawberries, halve them for jam, or keep whole for compote.
2. Add berries, 1/4 cup white sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. If you're making a jam, crush the berries slightly as it cooks. If you're making a compote, don’t crush the fruit. If you desire a sweeter preserve, add 1/4 cup extra sugar and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
3. If you're making compote, stop here, remove the mixture from heat, and pour into glass jars and seal. Let cool completely, and then keep refrigerated for up to three months.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes, allowing mixture to thicken for jam. Pour into glass jars and seal to preserve. Let cool completely, and then keep refrigerated for up to three months.
Compound butter doesn't keep as long as preserves or jams, but it sure is delicious. It's great for finishing pork and beef dishes, spreading on toast, or using for sandwiches.
1. Soften 1 pound of unsalted butter by leaving out at room temperature. Wash and completely air-dry 2 cups of berries.
2. Mash the berries into the butter and add 2 tablespoons of a mixture of the following, if desired: sugar, citrus zest, citrus juice, or spices like cinnamon, thyme, or basil.
3. Mold butter into plastic wrap logs or push into any container and refrigerate for later use. Refrigerated butter will keep up to two weeks. Alternately, cover and seal with plastic wrap and freeze. Butter will keep for up to three months in the freezer.