“It’s June, school is out for the summer and strawberries signal the beginning of berry season. I pack a picnic lunch, load my family in the car and head to the U-pick fields 30 miles away. I caution everybody not to pick as many berries as last year, reminding them how long it took me to clean and make jam out of last year’s batch”.
So begins the first paragraph in the Introduction to “BERRIES”. (and relatives and friends of mine will probably think I wrote it – it just sounds like something I would write! – sls)
“BERRIES” is the 6th cookbook in the series offered by Collins Publishers, in their Country Garden series.
Author Sharon Kramis is the co-author of NORTHWEST BOUNTY, THE EXTRAORDINARY FOODS AND WONDERFUL COOKING OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. She is a native to the Northwest region, and studied with James Beard at his summer cooking school in Seaside Oregon for eight years. Ms. Kramis is also a founding member of the International association of Cooking Professionals and a culinary consultant for a consulting company in Seattle (or at least was when this cookbook was published in 1994). When BERRIES was published in 1994, she was leading culinary walking tours through Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, near the waterfront. (I did a little research and discovered that Sharon is also the author of The Cast Iron cookbook and The Dutch Oven Cookbook).
Having told you this, let me share with you my enthusiasm for “BERRIES”. I must confess, I’m a berry lover too. Before moving to the high desert, every year several of us would trek out to a pick-your-own-farm in Moorpark, California, where you could pick your own blackberries, loganberries and raspberries. It would be hot and itchy and I always ended up with purple stained hands and thorns in my fingers despite attempts at wearing garden gloves. I found that you couldn’t pick the berries with a gloved hand—but it was an exhilarating experience and, like Sharon, I always ended up with more than I could reasonably convert into jellies and jams, cordials, vinegars and liqueurs. I’d dig through my recipe files for blackberry pies and muffin and cake recipes. So, I was utterly enchanted with the recipes offered in “BERRIES”- many that I had never heard of before. I especially recommend the lemon-glazed huckleberry muffin recipe on page 37 and James Beard’s Raspberry Chicken recipe on page 56. There is a seared pork loin with caramelized onions and blackberries, on page 60, that is to die for.
The publishers lure us with this invitation “in “BERRIES, A COUNTRY GARDEN COOKBOOK” food writer and berry expert Sharon Kramis offers a tantalizing collection of recipes inspired by the intoxicating flavor and natural beauty7 of the berry. New renditions of classic recipes for soups and salads, main courses, beverages and sweets celebrate the bountiful berry”.
Food photographs by Kathryn Kleinman are lush and inviting. I was so enchanted with the enticing combination of food and photographs that I trotted out to the kitchen and made the blueberry banana muffins last night (blueberries are in season, as I write this review—I’ve been buying them fresh, wherever they are on sale, and then freezing them to keep on hand. I did make a spicy blueberry jam and a couple batches of strawberry-blueberry jam – sls)
In addition to recipes, “BERRIES” contains a great Glossary of terms and helpful information for berry novices – how to select, wash, store, and freeze your berries. There is measurements and equivalents for berries that I have never seen anywhere else before – would you know that a flat of berries is equal to 6 pounds of fruit? That one pound of berries is equal to approximately 4 cups? That your one flat of berries will make about 5 pints regular jam? (or 10 8-oz jars of jam).
The glossary provides detailed information about each of the berries you may be working or cooking with – from blackberry to strawberry with many in between—with beautiful illustrations of each and every one.
If you love berries—you’ll love “BERRIES” by Sharon Kramis.
It’s listed on Amazon.com starting at one cent for a pre owned copy and $4,.43 for a new one. And if you are interested in Sharon’s book about the Northwest Bounty, I found that listed started at one cent also.
–Review by Sandra Lee Smith