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Juicy jewels of summer shine in berry good recipes

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
Lo and behold: The berries growing in your backyard might not only be edible. They might be downright delcious in a cobbler, now a signature dish in the author's cookbook.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
It's berry season, and one needs not stick to the very berries in recipes. For instance, try swapping in mulberries – which can be found all over the Sauk Valley – in cobbler.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
Ready to bake your cobbler? Not just yet. Sprinkle sugar on top, and admire its caramelization when you pull the cobbler from the oven in an hour.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
Prep time for mullberry cobbler is very brief.
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Prep time for mullberry cobbler is very brief.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
Mullberries work wonderfully in cobbler.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
Mullberries are great in jam, as are many berries you might find growing in your backyard. Just be sure to make sure you identify a berry before incorporating it into a recipe.
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Move over, jelly. Mulberry jam is a great way to dress up your toast. And you can make it yourself.
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(Christopher Heimerman/cheimerman@saukvalley.com)
This sorbet is tart and lip-smacking with blueberries, but many other berries could be substituted.

Summer is my favorite season for eating.

Everything is so fresh and colorful and flavorful. The crisp sweet corn. The fire-truck red tomatoes. The sunset-colored, chin-dripping juicy peaches. The flame-kissed meat. The velvety smooth, yet studded-with-tasty-treasures ice cream.

Summer brings a veritable bounty of quintessential sunny-weather eats, but its greatest offerings might just be the juicy jewel-toned berries – blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and more.

(Never mind that not one of the aforementioned “berries” is, botanically speaking, a berry, but rather just a fruit…)

We moved into our house in Sterling last summer and found deep purple berries that resembled miniature blackberries dripping off the slender branches of a tree growing right alongside our rusty old shed in the backyard.

We watched the tree fill with berries again this summer and finally consulted a few people about our mystery fruit.

Turns out, they are mulberries!

The thing about berries is they are so versatile and interchangeable. I didn’t have any trouble figuring out how to use my bounty.

(Tip: The easiest way to harvest mulberries is to throw an old sheet or blanket on the ground below the tree and then shake the branches until the ripe berries fall off. The more conventional way is to just pluck them off the branches and give your purple-stained hands a good wash later.)

I took my favorite cobbler recipe, courtesy of Ree Drummond, better known in the food world as The Pioneer Woman, and adapted it for the slightly sweeter mulberry.

Mulberry Cobbler

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s blackberry cobbler

Ingredients 1 stick butter, melted 1 cup self-rising flour (see note below)

1 cup sugar, divided 1 cup milk 2 cups mulberries, rinsed and patted dry

Note: To make self-rising flour, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour with ½ teaspoon salt and 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder.

Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and ¾ cup sugar, then whisk in the milk, and then whisk in the melted butter.

Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the mulberries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup sugar over the top.

Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and puffed up.

* * *

I also wanted to turn some of my mulberries into jam.

Now, I’m not a total Suzy Homemaker – at least not yet – so I don’t have jam-making and canning supplies at the ready. I am creative, though, and I had an incredible ingredient on hand that is perfect for making a super-easy, super-fast and healthy “jam”.

Let me introduce you to the chia seed. These teeny, tiny seeds – the very same ones from the old ch-ch-ch-chia pets – are rich in Omega-3s and high in fiber. And they can absorb 10 times their weight in water.

Chia seeds develop a gelatinous coating after they absorb a bunch of liquid, which lends itself to myriad uses in the kitchen, including jam made with just berries, sweetener and chia seeds. No need for pectin with this recipe.

(Chia seeds should be available at most grocery stores. They also are available online.)

Mulberry Chia Seed Jam

Ingredients

3 cups mulberries, rinsed, stems removed, if desired

2-4 Tbsp honey or pure maple syrup (optional)

2-3 tablespoons chia seeds

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the berries to a bubble, stirring frequently and lightly mashing the berries with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the berries soften and turn saucy, about 5 minutes. Continue to lightly mash them, taking care to leave some in chunks for texture, if desired.

Stir in the honey or maple syrup, if desired, and chia seeds. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the jam has thickened a bit. (If necessary, add more chia seeds, 1 teaspoon at a time, cooking the jam a few minutes in between additions.)

Remove the jam from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Let the jam cool to room temperature, then pour in a glass jar or other airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

* * *

And because it’s summer, and it’s hot outside, here’s a fabulous recipe for blueberry sorbet. I thought it was delicious with blueberries, but I bet it would be just as lip-smacking with any other berry.

Blueberry Sorbet

Source: Simply Recipes, www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/blueberry_sorbet

Ingredients

5 cups blueberries, rinsed, stems removed

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Stir to coat the blueberries with the sugar and lemon.

Place the blueberry-sugar mixture into a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl, and, working in batches, press the pureed blueberries through the sieve using a rubber spatula to catch any large or tough pieces of blueberry peel or lemon zest.

Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour, then process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, probably about 20-25 minutes.

Eat the sorbet immediately or within a couple of days, as it will get harder the longer it stays in the freezer.

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