Right now is the time to indulge in summer’s abundant, sweet, juices-running-down-your-chin berries. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are coming into their peak season, and I grab them the second they appear at my farmers market. These delicacies represent summer in all of its glory.
Berries tend to spoil relatively quickly—two or three days for raspberries and a couple of days beyond that for strawberries. Blueberries seem to have a longer fridge life, but only by a day or so. They are begging to be eaten immediately—or canned and preserved, to continue that blissful summer feeling for as long as possible.
You can eat the berries right off the vine—or your shopping basket—or bake them into pies and pastries, freeze them into ice creams and sorbets, cook them into brightly colored jams and sauces, or even toss them into savory salads. I use the fresh berries as fast as I can and store or freeze my creations to enjoy later on.
For the three berry recipes I am sharing in this article, you can choose a single variety or use a combination of all three, which I find irresistible. You can also use frozen berries, as long as the quality is excellent. Read the labels of the packages to make sure you’re getting just the fruit, with no added sugar or other preservatives.
To make summer pudding, a quintessentially British dessert, all you need are berries, powdered sugar, and some day-old slices of bread. Line a basin mold or individual ramekins with the bread, then fill it with the sugar-stewed fruits. The pudding needs to be made at least a day before you plan to serve it, in order for it to solidify and the flavors and textures to meld together. All those beautiful berry juices soak into the bread as it chills, while the sweetened fruit thickens slightly, to create the perfect consistency.
Then there’s a fabulously easy but impressive three-berry semifreddo with Greek yogurt and cream—and no, there is no need to bring out the ice cream maker. Allow it to freeze for at least 3 hours and then, just before serving, let it thaw a bit to become slightly soft. As its name indicates, it’s meant to be “half-frozen.”
Finally, I make a simple three-berry jam that isn’t as thick as a store-bought jam. It’s a bit runnier—so that it doubles as the perfect sauce to serve over vanilla ice cream. I store the jam in glass jars and leave a couple in the fridge to use right away—though they will last for up to three weeks—and then freeze the rest to save for dreary January days, when it instantly cheers me up. It’ll help you hold on to these fleeting moments of summer sweetness for just a little longer.
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.