Summer Berry Conserve

Strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are coming into season and what a good season it is! There is nothing like the freshness of local produce, the best of summer’s offerings, and the memorable taste these fruits create. Unless, though, you can eat pints of fresh berries every day, these delicacies of nature are not long lived on the shelf…YET…there is a way to enjoy their flavor for days in a variety of ways!

A conserve is similar to a jam, yet this method of conserving fruit differs from jam and jelly, since a conserve (con, like a criminal – serve, as in time – ha!) usually contains the whole fruit rather than the juice only. Easy as pie (and delicious on a pie), conserves are a quick fix to a plethora of produce.

Taking the strawberries and blackberries I had left over and just could not finish, I added the berries into a small pot (large pot for larger quantities) set on medium heat. Once the berries hit the heat, they begin to release their juices and natural sugars and your kitchen will begin to smell divine. A dip of water, a splash of sugar, a squeeze of lemon, and a hint of good vanilla are all you need to complete this delicacy. Bring the concoction to a boil for a few minutes, stir around, and remove it from the heat and your conserve is complete.

Now how to eat this treat is probably the toughest part, for it is fabulous on cake and ice cream, zippy as a vinaigrette, or delectable as a seasonal marinade. Of course, in making such a tough decision of how to enjoy your conserve, this Farmer recommends you simply try all the options thus allowing your palette to be your gage. Cake and ice cream are probably my favorites, for the slight tartness of the conserve paired with the sweetness of the cake or ice cream is simply delicious. But in a vinaigrette and as a marinade or even sauce for pork is fantastic – oh the tough choices we must face!

Literally stemming from the meaning of preserving and conserving, conserves are an excellent way to protect the fresh flavors of the season for a few more days and even months. Canning your conserve will ensure you with the flavors for months as well, but I have found that I must make conserve specifically for canning, for I will use up every drop of the nectar whenever I make a batch – it’s that good! Mimi often makes conserves for Christmas gifts and it is always a hit!

Each season offers its bounty and an opportunity to conserve its flavor and freshness. As each new crop comes in, experiment with combinations of fruit or single specimens alone. Blueberries make a gorgeous, deep sapphire colored conserve as raspberries create a rich ruby glaze. Scuppernongs and muscadines are wonderful in late summer and cranberries make a delicious condiment for the fall and winter months. Pecans and walnuts can be added for crunch and compatibility and a dose of additional seasonal goodness as well. Plums, paw paws, and peaches – whatever the berry or small fruit – are perfect for conserves. Experiment with your garden and land’s produce for your own ode to the season.

From this Farmer’s garden and kitchen, conserve with a conserve and extend the joy of each season’s produce.