Friday, July 8, 2011

Foraging: It's Wineberry Season

This is the first week here of wineberry season -- often referred to locally as wild raspberries. They are indeed a species of raspberry and they grow wild here, even rampant, but they are not native to North America. These berries litter the woods around our property and, if you can tolerate the thorns, reward the picker with a nice tart fresh flavor. In parts of the country they are considered invasive, though I'm not sure if that is true here in Maryland. Originally they were cultivated to use as a hybrid for raspberries, but they got loose. The great thing about them is that they grow in reasonably heavy shade, an attribute not found in many berries. We follow the edge of our yard or trails through the woods to grab whatever we can. Of course, the "best" berries taunt you from canes that are just out of reach. Despite better wisdom, my son and I are always drawn further and further into the brambles reaching for that cluster of perfect berries, inevitably caught by the many thorns and left scratched and battered.

This morning we took a friend out picking and, determined to overcome the thorny branches, we set an early morning meeting time and dressed in long sleeves and long pants. Naturally, we've hit a very humid spell and so we set off around 8am in already oppressive weather. The berries are close to their height now, and the picking is easy. The extra clothes were worth the heat, as we got caught many times, but our arms and legs returned unscathed.
Pick only dark red and plump berries - like the one far right bottom

The best berries are always just out of reach
and between you and the berries are these thorns!

wild blackeberries
Where there are wineberries, there are wild blackberries. Their season is just starting and so you'll only find a few dark black juicy berries on each cane this week. And they'll undoubtedly be very sour. I'm not a big fan of these berries, and I'm particularly not fond of their thorns, which, though fewer in number than those on a wineberry cane, are longer and far more vicious.  But they look tasty.  So when they are there, we pick a few of them too. These are not wild black raspberries, which are, well, raspberries and quite delicious. They are also much rarer to find in my woods; I tend to find them each year more by random than planning.
Nasty blackberry thorns !!

So, how do you use wineberries? Quickly! Wineberries do not last very long at all, and you'll want to do something with them within 24 hours. You'll notice they have a stickiness to them and the flavor is more tart than the cultivated red raspberry. They are great fresh, on cereal for example. I made jam with an early batch this week, which came out ok, but not great. Mixed with the sugar necessary for jam, the wineberry seems to lose its distinct fresh flavor. Today's pick will be macerated (sprinkle with sugar and let sit until the juices are drawn out). Then we'll turn lady finger type cookies (quickly!) in the resulting juice and layer the cookies, crushed berries, and cream cheese into a fast tiramisu-like dessert. Yum, Yum!
Today's harvest - random blackberries included

Traditional tiramisu uses marscapone cheese, which is rather expensive, and requires significantly more work to whip egg whites and fold in the rest of the ingredients. It's fabulous and we make it for special occasions, but for a quick "just us" dessert, we go with the faster, cheaper recipe. Well, it's not so much a recipe because it's modified heavily depending on what we have around. But it is faster and cheaper. The Germans, at least in the South, use whipped cream and something like cream cheese to create these big thick lighter versions of tiramisu. They are just absolutely fabulous. Ours is something in between. If we have whipping cream, we whip that and fold it into cream cheese with a bit of sugar. If we don't, we hand whip the cream cheese to make it a bit lighter, but still dense like the traditional dessert. The main lesson we learned from the Italians was to quickly toss the cookies in the coffee or juice that you are using. The cookie will seem dry, but as it sits in the fridge, it will absorb that liquid and have a lovely cake texture when it is eaten. That soggy gooky tiramisu you often find in restaurants is due to soaking the cookies in liquid, rather than tossing them quickly.  Making the dessert with fruit allows you to eat the great berries that are available all Summer, and you can make this with just about any fruit that will macerate well. 
Toss your berries in sugar and let them sit to extract the juice
These are the cookies we use
Macerated berries

Toss quickly in juice and layer with cheese....

then more cheese and fruit
Layer until you're out of ingredients - rest in fridge 30-60 min
This entry is part of "Feed me tweet me follow me home" blog hop at A Moderate Life !

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a very yummy twist on Tiramisu! I have not heard of wineberries before - I wonder if we have them in England...We definitely have blackberries here - they are just starting to appear in the hedgerows - yum! Thank you for sharing this post with Feed Me Tweet Me Follow Me Home.