A Berry Good Idea

We’re moving through the summer so quickly and with the harvest for pretty much everything being about two weeks early, we’re already done with strawberries (except for the everbearing varieties) and raspberries. Blueberries are in full force and I bought my first batch of blackberries this week. Like many people, I’ve been making jam, but there’s only so much jam two people can eat, so that isn’t always a practical way to preserve summer for the long cold days of winter. A few years ago we bought a small deep freezer and so now every summer I make “berry bags”.

The idea for putting together bags of frozen mixed berries came when I was searching for frozen blueberries at the supermarket and ended up with one of those 5-fruit blends by mistake. The berries were all from China or Chile and weren’t very good, but the idea was a good one and I started buying berries throughout the season as they became ripe and filling freezer bags.

I aim for approximately two cups of fruit in each bag and include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and red currants. These definitely end up being more expensive than that bag o’ berries from China but the taste is incomparable.

A two-cup bag of berries is exactly enough to make a compote to top pancakes for two people. On a cold winter morning when I’m making a batch of buckwheat buttermilk pancakes, I just grab a bag of berries from the freezer, dump them in a pot with about a quarter of a cup of sugar and let them go. When it comes to a boil I add a little bit of cornstarch to give it a bit of thickness and by the time the pancakes are done I have an awesome mixed berry compote as a topping.

Freezing currant on a baking sheet so they won't clump together.

In the summer, of course, we eat the berries fresh. I wash and clean them, then toss them all together in a berry fruit salad. These go on pancakes, waffles, or even scones for a breakfast shortcake. But if I have too many leftover berries and they’re starting to get mushy, I do the same thing; pop them in a pot with a bit of sugar, bring them to a boil and thicken the syrup, then freeze the cooked compote to have on pancakes at a later date.

Berries are too good and too expensive to let any go to waste. And by freezing them for compote, we get to enjoy the great taste – and health benefits – of berries all year long.