It’s summer and my berry hoarding tendencies are at their peak.
I’ve often chuckled at people who post recipes at this time of year with myriad of ways to “use up all those excess berries.”
Who has excess berries?
No such thing.
That being said, the sad reality of a berry-obsession is that if you buy enough of them, eventually you will buy a container that fails to live up to your berry-loving expectations. And, if you also have a concomitant stone-fruit addiction, you may find yourself disappointed when the bagger at the market puts them at the bottom of your bag and they are all bruised and torn up before you get the chance to eat them.
Blueberries that are mushy, strawberries that are slightly bruised, and peaches that will mold if left out – what’s a fruit hoarder to do?
I make sauce.
I’m not talking fancy sauce here. I don’t have elaborate recipes to offer you. Just some ideas to get your berry juices flowing next time you are presented with sub-par fruit.
Here’s how I handle mushy blueberries. I take out a saucepan, rinse off the berries making sure to keep a little water in there, dump them in the pan, cover the pan and turn the heat as low as it will go. I let them cook until they are saucy.
I don’t add sweeteners, because I believe in the natural sweetness of berries. Even as a wee little child, I was perplexed by strawberry and blueberry pancake syrups that tasted primarily of sugar with only a little twist of fruit flavor.
When I think the berries are saucy enough, I remove the cover and let some of the moisture cook off. Then I pour the sauce into a jar, let it cool and then pop into the fridge.
You can use this on yogurt if you’re a dairy-consuming family, on any number of pancake-y sorts of dishes, over ice cream, or straight from the jar.
Strawberries take a bit more prep and a bit more moisture than blueberries do. I cut them into quarters because I find slices unwieldy when they go into the pan. I also add about a tablespoon full or so of water to the pan before I cook.
With both of these sauces, you will want to stay close to the kitchen to monitor for overflows.
For peaches, I use a cast-iron skillet. I cut as much flesh off the fruit as I can and put it over low heat in the skillet with a little fat. (I’ve used coconut oil, grassfed butter, and bacon grease before.) I move the fruit around until it starts to brown a bit. At that point I add a bit of orange juice, a pinch of salt, a little vanilla, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some nutmeg. If I am making the sauce for the kids’ waffles, I will usually also add about a half-tablespoon of maple syrup.
I continue to stir as it cooks over medium heat until most of the liquid has cooked off and I am left with peaches in a nice glaze in a concentrated, flavorful syrup.
Because of the fat content, you will need to reheat this before serving if you refrigerate it. (Otherwise you will have solid clumps of fat in your sauce.) Sometimes I serve this as a side dish with meals. It pairs well with Southern favorites like pulled pork.
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Have fun playing with your less-than-ideal fruit! Just remember that the sugar content can vary widely from batch to batch, and that can affect the time you go from “perfect” to “burned,” so keep a close watch on your sauces as they cook.
What fun ways do you use your “less than desirable” produce?