Berry Delicious

Picking the Best Summer Berry Desserts

Berry picking is a rite of summer that combines adventure and reward. It’s also something our family has done here and in Europe. 
When we lived in London, I packed up the kids for a long weekend in Cornwall where I was researching a story on Daphne du Maurier, who set several of her novels there (among them Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, and my personal favorite The House on the Strand.) The kids and I left our hotel one sunny morning, parked the car on a country lane, and hiked a path by the beach—picking and eating blackberries along the way.

Fowey in Cornwall

If you want to go along, at least in spirit, read a London Sunday Times literary “walk” story about Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall--preferably while eating berries, to get the full effect.  
At the Frilandsmuseet or Open Air Museum in Copenhagen during another summer, we got a literal taste of Danish life in the 18th and 19th centuries—blackcurrants growing near a smallholder’s cottage. These tiny berries have a rich, deep berry flavor. In England, blackcurrant syrup was given to children as a good source of Vitamin C during World War II, when rationing limited other fruits. Today, blackcurrant is still a favorite flavor; my children still love blackcurrant drinks and candies known as pastilles. But unless you grow your own, blackcurrants are hard to come by in North America.

A Cottage at the Frilandsmuseet in Denmark

If you can’t pick berries in Denmark this summer, at least you can take a virtual video tour here.
Of course, the best way to enjoy summer berries is to pick them locally and do the least to them as possible.  After you’ve eaten your fill while you pick, here are summer dessert recipes to make the most of your bounty.
Summer Pudding
As a salute to our European berry-picking ways, this quintessential English dessert or “pudding” needs to be better known and appreciated here.  You simply line a medium mixing bowl with crustless pieces of bread (Pepperidge Farm works well for this). You heat the berries until their juices begin to run, then pour in the filling. You top it with more bread and weight it down with a can. The next day, you turn it out, cut yourself a big slice, and enjoy it with a dollop of whipped cream or some frozen yogurt.
Serves 8
8 thin slices good-quality stale bread, crusts removed
6 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
¼ cup granulated sugar or to taste
Lemon juice to taste
1. The night before you wish to serve this dessert, cut the bread slices so they fit in the bottom, sides, and top of a small to medium mixing bowl. Line the bottom and sides of the bowl.
2. Combine the berries and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the juices just begin to run. Taste, and if necessary, add more sugar. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Pour and spoon the berries into the bread-lined bowl. Cover the top with the remaining bread slices. Sit a small place on top of the bread “lid” and weight the plate with a heavy can. Refrigerate.  The pudding is done when the reddish-purple juices have permeated the bread.
3. To serve, loosen the sides with a knife or metal spatula, then carefully invert the pudding onto a serving plate.

Summer Pudding

Wildflower Honey Creams with Warm Spiced Berries
Bees make wildflower honey in mid-summer, after they’ve “grazed” on all the wild flowers in bloom. You can also use clover honey, which has a similar medium sweetness. This dessert literally whips up in minutes—sort of a parfait or a crème fraiche dessert with a berry topping.
Serves 8
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup sour cream
½ cup wildflower honey, divided
3 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Juice of ½ lemon
1. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sour cream and ¼ cup of the honey and beat again until well blended. Set aside.
2. Place the berries, remaining ¼ cup of honey, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the berries to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
3. Spoon the honey cream into parfait glasses and top with the warm spiced berries.

Wildflower Honey Cream with Warm Spiced Berries

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