In My Berry & Pickle Kitchen

Two words describe my month in the kitchen: Berry and Pickle. Sometimes one of those words qualify the other: Pickled Berries or Berry Pickles. As you can probably tell, the garden has been producing loads of different kinds of berries and fruit. I’ve been harvesting strawberries (including the miniature alpine variety), loganberries, red and black currants, gooseberries, raspberries, and blueberries. We’re enjoying eating the fresh berries, but, preserve making has also begun. I’m replenishing my stock of berry jams and jellies, plus there are all those pickled preserves, chutneys and vinegar concoctions to be made with produce from the garden.

red-white-blue_berries

We started the month off with a berry bang. On the 4th of July, my (subversive) tribute to American Independence Day here in the UK was a bowl of fresh red and blue berries served with cream. I think the British members of the family were oblivious to the symbolism of the red white and blue – particularly as I whisked the stars and stripes tea towel away before they could notice.

strawberry_shrub_drink1

We’ve been enjoying cool summer drinks made with a lovely old-fashioned acidic syrup concocted from my strawberries infused in vinegar called a strawberry shrub. It makes a mean strawberry-flavoured G & T.

double_cherry_chutney

Nothing goes to waste. The vinegar soaked fruit pulp left over from making the shrub was added to rhubarb from the garden to make an experimental strawberry-rhubarb chutney. Tasted good, but (like all chutneys) will mellow with age. It will be a perfect accompaniment to poultry and sharp cheeses. Then, there was more chutney making with a double cherry chutney from my small harvest of Morello cherries. Jars of the cherry chutney will come out in the autumn to go with duck and other game.

red_currant_salsa_feature

Another acidic combination resulted in the fresh red currant salsa, a fruity version of Pico de Gallo. It was an inspired combination that worked surprisingly well – astringent and fruity at the same time with a hit of heat from the jalapeño pepper. Just the thing for grilled pork fajitas.

pickled_vine_shoots

Last, but not least, I pickled the grapevine shoots after pruning the rampant vine. This is a traditional Greek method of preserving the tender tips of grapevines and seriously delicious. The tender leaves have also been preserved for future dolmades making.

loganberry_bars

The loganberries have begun to ripen, but I am ashamed to say that when defrosting the freezer, I discovered more berries lingering from last year. Those produced a lovely tart jelly, some of which was used to make loganberry crumble bars. The new crop of loganberries is now replacing last year’s batch in the freezer.

raspberry_leaf_drying

Raspberries are also being harvested. And, I found myself experimenting with a berry herbal tea – dried raspberry leaves. All I can say is blech! The experimenting was born out of frustration earlier last month, a time when the linden tree is in flower. Lining most of the streets of my old city neighbourhood are linden trees, sometimes called lime trees. (That makes sense of all those references in British literature of “avenues of limes” lining the drives to stately homes.) Many of the gardens hereabout also have a linden tree or two – well established and most not intentionally planted. We have two shading one corner of the back garden. Every year, I had collected the flowers and brackets to dry for making the most delicate and soothing of herbal teas and a common tisane in many European countries. But…after having the linden trees pruned and thinned last year, all those lovely flowers are now out of reach – even with the tallest of our ladders. Well, I will simply have to wait until it grows again as dried raspberry leaf – though some may appreciate it – is not an acceptable substitute in this kitchen. Next to try: black currant leaf.
gooseberry_clafoutis

All of the gooseberries have finally been harvested. Mine are red dessert gooseberries. They make a fine jam. But, the last ones to be harvested were used to create a gooseberry clafoutis from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

berry_feature

A few more berries to come – the second crop of raspberries and the blackberries. Damsons and quince later. A lot of preserves – jams, jellies and pickles – still to be made in my kitchen!

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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46 comments

  1. What a productive season, and so many English themes in there, despite the 4th of July prop and the tasty sounding Greek pickled vine shoots. I am quite keen on the idea of a gooseberry clafoutis. Must look after my shrubs this coming season.

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    • You are right – very English berries despite the other cultural intrusions! The gooseberry clafoutis was good, but tart. I suspect it should only be made with red dessert gooseberries. Am trying to accumulate more gooseberry recipe ideas given the fact my shrubs seem to be heavy croppers.

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  2. What a wonderful harvest of fruit – those bowls look so inviting and it sounds as if there’s going to be some tasty preserves for mid winter to bring back memories of summer. Interesting to read about your raspberry leaf tea as I tried blackcurrant leaf, which left me unmoved.

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    • In a perfect world we would be able to grow anything we liked. I would have olives, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, lemons & limes as well as my berries. But, alas, British climate is not suited for some if these things. I sometimes miss the really hot weather – odd, but true.

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    • Ha, ha! I enjoy my berries and, of course, the preserves made from them. I suppose that I might acquire a taste for raspberry leaf tea, but somehow I don’t see myself sticking with it. I wish I had known about the cramps thing when it necessary! Could have forced a cup or to of raspberry leaf tea down at that point.

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    • I read somewhere that photographing glass (the bowl) with raking light produced good effects. And, we just happened to have the perfect sunny day for it when the photo was taken. Set the berries off well, too.

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  3. What an amazing month you’ve had. I love how you’re truly interacting with nature and have such a thriving garden. Your recipes are both simple and sophisticated. I really love them. That clafoutis looks incredible. I just made one for the first time with cherries and i really have been enjoying it. It’s okay to eat that for breakfast right? Calories dont count until at least noon. But seriously, very beautiful post and ideas. Sorry the raspberry leaves didn’t work out in tea, but they are very beautiful 🙂

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    • Well, Nigella Lawson says she ate her gooseberry clafoutis for breakfast, so I’d say go for it although, I can’t guarantee reduced calories before noon. 😉 Somewhere I read that the traditional clafoutis is made with sour cherries, so red dessert gooseberries – that are still tart – are a perfect substitution.

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    • Thanks Fae! It’s always a hectic time in the garden – harvesting, preserving AND trying to see if I can come up with something new and innovative. Photography is coming along even though I rely solely on the capabilities of my iPad.

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  4. All those berries! Although I’ve never seen red gooseberries before – are they still a little tart or sweet?

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    • The red gooseberries are wonderful. They generally aren’t as big as some of the green varieties, but are considered ‘dessert’ varieties – still tart, but not so mouth puckering as the bog standard ones. Though I grow the red ones, I only just begun to see them in the supermarket this year.

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  5. Debi, we can grow citrus in our garden, but I can’t seem to grow berries at all. Not sure if that’s our temperate climate (I think berries need frost), but oh how I wish I could be harvesting berries en masses from our garden like you are! How incredibly glorious! I love the word “shrub” – superb name for a bevvy – and I was drinking a lot of linden tea for a while there, until I realised it was quite a strong diuretic. It’s absolutely delicious though!

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    • And, here is me in Britain wishing I could grow lemons & limes! You are right about the linden tea, but it is also a calming soporific like camomile. My husband got into the habit of drinking it after reading the Donna Leon mysteries where her Venetian based police detective often has a linden tea with a spoon of honey after a tough day detecting!

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    • They really are a special treat this time of year. It is no wonder the English have cup up with one of the season’s perfect desserts, Summer Pudding which makes best use of these fresh berries.

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    • It seems odd being out of sync – all you lovely Aussie bloggers are making soups, stews and comfort baked goods when I want salads or things on the barbecue! And then the reverse later on. Hope you enjoy your berry season in a few months time. It is so fleeting!

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    • Well, I wish I could grow olives and lots and lots of Mediterranean veg, but northern England really isn’t geared up for that. In a perfect world, we’ve be able to grow anything we want. 🙂

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    • Many of the berry photos were taken on bright sunny days (which seem to have gone, leaving a lot of cloud). I guess I was just lucky it happened at a time when the berries were ripe.

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  6. Debi, your bounty of berries is beautiful, and the forthcoming preserves and chutneys are sure to make meal times sweeter during fall and winter! Recently I made a traditional claufouti with cherries — didn’t have the sour variety, so I used the ‘least ripe’ sweet ones — it turned out well. Yours made me want to make another one asap!

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    • I love clafoutis, even when made with any number of fruits. But, cherry is the best. Jam, jelly, chutney, pickle making is one of those seasonal things to capture the memory of the summer. Just finished a batch of blackberry jelly.

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  7. What a fantastic In My Kitchen this month! I wish loganberries were redly available in Australia, they are so hard to get! I just love berries and I am looking forward to summer here! Thanks for sharing! Liz x

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    • Thanks! The strawberry shrub is equally good with just sparkling water (and lots of ice). The old-fashioned drink took me by surprise as I was expecting something mouth-puckering. Instead I got a punch of berry flavour with a zing!

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