Salute to summer – wild Quebec berries
Most of the wild berries are now done with. The wild strawberries, dwarf raspberries, red raspberries, black raspberries, Saskatoon berries, elderberries, high bush cranberries, blueberries – they’ve all been processed. My coulis, jam and frozen berries are put up for the year. The last of the sarsaparilla is being harvested now, and the wild grapes are on their way. They are looking ripe early, but we are still waiting for the first frost, in hopes that we will get to them before the birds this year though. They need to be at their sweetest for our wild grape ‘balsamic’ which is a hot ticket. Then when the snow comes, it will be sumac and pimbina, much less tricky.
Looking back, I must say that it was a pretty fabulous year for wild berries; not only thanks to Mother Nature, but because we were blessed with enough hands to do the hard work of picking them when it was time. Better them than me. I am very psyched about my stocks for winter, when local Vitamin C and fruity flavour is so scarce.
Truth be told, in previous years, I have rarely been impressed with some of these berries - like black raspberries, wild blackberries and Saskatoon berries, given the typically high seed/pit to flavour ratio and cost (labour). François has always claimed that wild black raspberries are the shit and he freezes enough to eat for breakfast year round. I never bought in, yet never objected to a few in my glass of mousseux on a sunny day. But this year I swooned over them all round; they were so plump and tasty. I naturally focused on the blackberries and Saskatoon berries too, much more than the easier to love blueberries and strawberries. Elderberries have no trouble retaining elite status in my kitchen; I just adore them. Ever since I was introduced to them in a real sense along with François, I have embraced them every year (and the flowers too!). It is only bonus that they are have recently been deemed a super-food thanks to their anti-viral properties. This year, we dried some berries and they taste like licorice, flowers and tea with a raisin-like fruitiness that I am happy to have on hand as a spice, or to layer flavours in infusions with the fresh/frozen fruit.
My desserts naturally got wilder this summer with the abundance of berries to go along with the sweet-grass, Labrador tea, wintergreen and wild ginger.. I had them oozing out of tartlets and cobblers, in ice cream sandwiches, upside down cakes, crepes, cheesecake, trifle.. However, even in a good year, the thing about the wild berries is that they are often more full of fiber, making for chewy desserts, not to mention small yields and expensive cooking.. But they have a complexity of flavours that make cultivated berries seem sweet and one-dimensional, which in my mind makes them equally well suited for savoury preparations where I generally don’t like too much fruit/sweet. I really went nuts with them in infusions - in jellies and sauces, as well as in marinades for duck, pintade, ham and venison, alongside the desserts, jams, syrups and granite/sorbets..
Sarsaparilla is another baby that is neat dried. It resembles a fruitier juniper berry, especially the petite salsepareille. Grande salsepareille is reminiscent of the taste in your mouth after a glass of fruity (not tawny) port. Again, both are good infused in sauces for game or to add complexity to another fruit based coulis, marinade, vinaigrette or dessert preparation.
So, here’s one last toast to the berries! Thank you for the berries.
Like with the marine greens, I am sure to forget about them soon as I steadily move into an autumn life that is all wholly, fully all about the shrooms. Mushroom madness is officially underway with hundreds of pounds to process a week now. I know I asked for it; I am happy.
Goodbye berries and greens, hello shrooms.