Recipe ideas for using ALL the berries: Spicy strawberry BBQ sauce, blueberry marinades, and more
Practical ways you can bring berries into your everyday meals
If you're looking for ways to cook with berries, I'd normally suggest a pie or a seasonal tiramisu. Or maybe boozy berry popsicles to enjoy in the sun. But this is a very different year, much less focused on entertaining, and so I'm more inclined to recommend practical ways you can bring berries into your everyday meals.
Let their naturally sweet yet acidic flavour brighten everything from barbecue sauce to sweet and sour meatballs. And use ones that are high in pectin, like currants and blackberries, to thicken silky savoury sauces for drizzling on grain bowls, meat, or fish.
Many dishes are just better with berries. Here's a list of ideas to get you going:
Make a blackberry jelly for meatballs. For a dish that's both sweet and sour, find an easy recipe online using chili sauce and jam, swapping in a quick blackberry jam for the grape jelly. Make it yourself by boiling down 2 cups of berries, ¼ cup of sugar and lemon juice to taste until thickened. Use slightly under-ripe berries, which are higher in pectin, if you've got the option to be choosy. Strain the seeds from the jam and swap it in for the grape jelly.
Make a currant sauce to serve over grain bowls or fish. Cook down 1 ½ cups of currants with just over ¼ cup of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of ketchup, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, horseradish, and tabasco. Simmer until the sauce has reduced to your liking, or add water or a splash of vinegar if it needs to be thinned out. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over a grain bowl or white fish just before serving.
Glaze your grilled tofu or ribs with a spicy strawberry bbq sauce. Melt ¼ cup butter and saute a small, diced red onion in it along with a couple cloves of garlic until soft. Add 2 cups of ketchup, store-bought or homemade, along with 1 cup of sliced strawberries, 1 cup of rice vinegar, ½ cup of brown sugar and about ¼ cup of honey, some grated ginger and 1 or 2 cans of chipotle in adobo, lifting them out of the adobo sauce or adding it as well, depending on your comfort level when it comes to heat. You may also want to add some warm spices in there; a dash of cloves, allspice or ginger, perhaps, and of course your salt and pepper. Simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth and refrigerate for up to one month.
Dress your salads in a raspberry vinaigrette. Puree 1 ½ cups of raspberries and press them through a sieve to remove the seeds. Whisk in ¼ cup of honey and ¼ cup of white wine vinegar, and 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve on leafy greens like spinach tossed with soft goat's cheese.
Take inspiration from the flavours of a South Indian dish and make a blueberry rasam. This thin sweet and sour soup is usually made with tomatoes and tamarind. There are endless varieties that you can make — try swapping out the tamarind for blueberries this season. Look up a recipe online and serve it cold or at room temperature in the summer heat.
Make a chunky Italian-style mostarda with Saskatoon berries. Swap out some of the traditional candied fruit for fresh, local harvest. To do this, simmer a diced onion with 6 diced dried apricots, ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup rice vinegar, 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt. Simmer covered until the apricots plump up, then add 3-3 ½ cups of Saskatoon berries and continue cooking uncovered until thick. Season with salt and pepper, adjusting the taste with more vinegar or sugar, as needed. Serve with meats and cheeses or on sandwiches. Sub in blackberries if you can't find Saskatoon.
Make blueberry ketchup for your burgers and fries by softening a few shallots with garlic before adding 8 parts blueberries to one part red or white wine vinegar and one part brown sugar. Simmer until it's reduced and thickened, about 30-45 minutes. Puree until smooth.
Make a blueberry marinade by adding to the ketchup recipe above. Dice a small onion and mix it into ½ cup of the blueberry ketchup, thinning it out with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water — not too much — you want it to coat the back of a spoon. Add at least a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper and a bit of dry mustard if you've got it on hand. Use this as a marinade for meats or tofu.
Pickle raspberries to toss into salads. We've talked before about how quick pickles can do a lot for your dishes, and it's true again here in the summer when it comes to berries in your salads. Gently heat a mixture of 1 cup water, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup white wine vinegar, along with dried thyme or ground allspice or whatever other herbs or spices you like. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly, then pour it over about 1 cup fresh raspberries — or enough to fit in a 500 mL mason jar with plenty of room left for the brine. Let the berries sit for at least 15 minutes to pickle and cool, then lift them out gently to top a leafy green salad.
Make spiced blackberry relish. Bring 1 ½ cups sugar to a boil with ¾ cup water. Add blackberries and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain berries in a sieve over a bowl and set aside. Return the syrup you've drained off back to the pot and add the zest of a lemon and a cinnamon stick, along with ¾ cup white vinegar. Boil until the mixture is thick and has reached 220 degrees F on a thermometer — this could take up to 30 minutes. Add berries and boil a few minutes more. Serve as a condiment for meats, or drizzled over soft cheeses, or slathered on bread under melted sharp cheddar cheese.
Looking for even more ideas to maximize your berry use this season? Here are a few more recipes to try and maybe even leave on a friend's doorstep.
Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.