Have a Berry Nice Summer
The strawberry season is coming to an end, and the raspberries are starting to ripen on the canes. One of my favorite ways to enjoy seasonal berries is in a simple sauce of fresh lemon zest, honey, and vanilla. This recipe is a good example of how simple ingredients, plus a little bit of method and time, can yield incredible results. Health benefits of berries can fill a book—rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. These highly pigmented drupes are considered a superfood, assisting in eliminating free radicals from the body.
When selecting berries, ask your farmers if there are different varieties available. For example, when making a strawberry sauce, I like to add 3/4 of a sweet strawberry and 1/4 of a tart strawberry for a balance of flavor and texture. To maximize the berry flavor for this recipe, select some berries that are slightly overripe for the maceration liquid.
Macerating is a technique where liquid and sugar are added to berries or other fruits to slowly draw out the natural sugars and liquid, essentially creating its own sauce. The berries should be refrigerated and stirred occasionally, for a minimum of 45 minutes or preferably overnight. The addition of sugar breaks down the berries over time, creating a flavorful liquid and tender fruit. Most recipes recommend water and sugar. For maximum flavor, replace water with a very ripe berry puree, and replace white granulated sugar with local honey or maple syrup for a richer in-depth flavor. The addition of fresh lemon zest and a half of fresh vanilla bean elevates this very common summertime dessert to the next level. This is a great recipe for young people as they can have fun mashing the overripe berries, just be sure to buy a few extra cups of berries for little hands and “chef snacks!”