Strawberries are the first berries to ripen for us here in the Northern Virginia Piedmont. The most common ones that you are likely to grow or buy are the June bearers. They produce a big flush over a few weeks in late May or June, and then they are done until next year. Day neutral cultivars like ‘Tristar’ or Alpine strawberries produce a little bit all summer long. I pick about a quart of strawberries every week from my ‘Tristar’ patch and that works well for us.
I have just cleaned out my white and red currant bushes. They make the easiest jelly since they have so much pectin, and one of the tastiest and prettiest too, a gorgeous brilliant clear red… that is, if you don’t press the jelly bag while it’s dripping. This year, I exercised great restraint and did not squeeze the jelly bag! But I was not going to waste so much pulp, so I processed the left over berries through the food mill’s finest plate. The strained currant pulp was mixed with sugar and black cherries to make a currant/black cherry jam. Cherries are low in pectin so the jam can be a little tricky to set sometimes…. but not if you use currant as the base for the jam! And the tartness of the currant is very pleasant.
I don’t grow gooseberries but I am told by friends who do that they are ripening now. Well… I do have one small shrub, and last year I turned the few berries it produce into a charming little pink lemonade. But the shrub and I are not really well acquainted yet… I still have a lot to learn about gooseberries. They may be an acquired taste…
We are in the middle of blueberry season. And what a glorious season it is! As all other fruit so far they started a little earlier than usual too. We eat them raw, but since cultivated blueberries can taste a little flat, I like to mix them with other berries for berry salads. They also ake excellent ice-creams and sherbets – try it with a Reine De Saba (almond and chocolate cake).
Or layer it with angel food cake for a very pretty ice-cream sandwich cake that can be made way ahead of time. And just before serving, a fresh barely cooked blueberry sauce.
Of course, a few pots of jam – what’s not to like about blueberry jam? and the rest in the freezer.