Berry Good

There are few things in life that I enjoy as much as picking fresh berries at the peak of their season. That's mostly because -- no matter how hard I try -- I can't help but sample just a few before they manage to make it to my basket! However, if I can keep from ruining my appetite with such delectable morsels, I always have a big treat waiting for me when I get to the kitchen. That's where I have a ready store of angel food cake, vanilla ice cream, oatmeal and granola, whole wheat pancake mix and all of the other wonderful culinary delights that reach heavenly when paired with fresh berries.

While munching on fresh berries just after (or during) being picked is always a special treat, it makes good sense to save a few for making simple, yet elegant sauces and syrups for breakfasts, brunches and desserts. Add a few tried and true ingredients and you have wonderful accompaniments to your favorite things in life. I even manage to include small strained quantities to my favorite summertime teas and cold drinks!

The key to making berry syrups and sauces is to avoid over-sweetening them. Remember that most of the berries used in such recipes have a good deal of natural sweetness to them. It would be a shame to overshadow this trait by adding too much sugar to the mix. So, to be on the safe side, when I make such recipes I always add less sugar than the recipe calls for and then taste the result before adding any more sweetener. It only takes a little extra time and it can make the difference between a perfect dessert and something just too darned sweet!

There are four great recipes to help you take full advantage of the beautiful crop of berries that's showing up in gardens, pick-your-own plots, farmers' markets and grocery stores everywhere. Feel free to mix and match the berries you have on hand to make a special combination that's truly yours.

Enjoy these recipes and be sure to let us know how you like using berries in your favorite recipes. We'd love to have more great ideas for our kitchens too!

Strawberry-Blueberry Dessert Sauce

This delightful fruit sauce is great with fruit or ice cream. It's also nice spooned over angel food cake!
  • 1 c. strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon rind
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 T. cognac

Cook the berries in sugar (more if fresh) just until hot. Add the lemon juice and grated lemon rind and simmer 5 minutes. Force the mixture through a sieve. Mix together the cornstarch and cognac until smooth; add the berry mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it is clear and thickened. This sauce may be served hot or cold.

  • Yields: about 1 1/2 cups sauce
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce

This simple sauce is great with many desserts, but my favorite way to eat it is spooned over hot oatmeal in the morning and sprinkled with a little granola.
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen sliced rhubarb
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 c. sliced strawberries

Place the rhubarb, orange juice, and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan. Stir together.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, and reduce the temperature to low. Simmer gently for 7 to 12 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but most of the pieces still have some shape. Remove from the stove. Stir in the cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and vanilla. Stir in the strawberries. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, depending on the sweetness of the berries. Serve warm or cold, as a sauce for ice cream spooned over pound cake or short cake, or stirred into oatmeal.

  • Yields: about 4 cups sauce
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Maple-Berry Pancake Syrup

Give tasty maple syrup a new look with the addition of raspberries and blueberries. Enjoy it with your favorite breakfast treats like pancakes, french toast and waffles. Try a little poured over oatmeal or porridge!
  • 1 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c. raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often. Once the mixture begins to bubble, remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish. Serve hot or cold on breakfast treats.

  • Yields: about 3 cups syrup
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Quick Strawberry Shortcake Sauce

When you find yourself with the urge for strawberry shortcake, try this fast and easy sauce with a dollop of whipped cream and you're there!
  • 2 c. sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2-4 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

  • Yields: about 2 cups sauce
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes