A useful tip for freezing berries.

If you’re looking to freeze berries without sugar and don’t want them to clump up in storage, try this method. Get a large baking sheet and line it with a piece of baking parchment. Wash the berries well and pick out any stems and other debris (including insects!). ūüėČ Spread the berries in a single layer on the baking sheet and pop the sheet, uncovered, into a large freezer for at least six hours. Remove the baking sheet and immediately pack the berries into storage bags. Label the bags and put them back into the freezer until use. The berries freeze individually, which makes them easier to work with and measure out when you want to use them in baking and cooking. This method works supremely well for fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, currants, saskatoons, and haskap (pictured – this was part of a haul I picked on a very cold, damp day a few weeks ago on a farm outside of Calgary. I was shivering so much a few not-quite-ripe ones snuck in, LOL).

Recipe: Cranberry persimmon jam (small batch).

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of cooking for the holiday season already and the thought of doing more at this very moment doesn’t exactly inspire or thrill.¬† But, actually…this recipe pretty much cooks itself and the combination of ingredients is rather festive.¬† An added bonus: while it’s on the stovetop, your kitchen will smell delightful and afterwards, you’ll have something unique and special to serve up to your guests.

This jam isn’t subtle or summery in flavour – it’s full-on winter celebration, warmly spicy and rich.

Cranberry Persimmon Jam (small batch, yield: just over 2 cups)

12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed well (this year, I was so pleased to find cranberries grown in Canada – straight out of Nova Scotia!)

3 fuyu persimmons, peeled, mashed (a potato masher should do the trick, as will a hand blender)

1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom

1 piece star anise

juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Throw all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir together.¬† Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low.¬† You want a consistent low boil – if bits of cranberry and persimmon are festooning the frosty kitchen windows in a pulpy sort of garland and colourful hot fruit dribbles are being catapulted into your Christmas tree as it stands sedately in the living room, you’ve got it on too high.

It will take time to boil this all down – about one hour, more or less.¬† You don’t have be present the entire time, but you cannot forget about it for too long.¬† Every once in a while, in between topping up your wine glass and wiping the cranberry-persimmon spatter off the chandelier (because you accidentally had the mixture on too high when you first got started), you will have to stir it.¬† Just so the sugar doesn’t burn.¬† Trust me on that one.¬† Burnt sugar sets off the smoke detector.¬† And your neighbours really don’t like that when it’s only six in the morning.¬† But, that’s another recipe from another time….

When the fruit and sugar have cooked down and everything is all jammy and fragrant and you can’t resist taking a bit of a taste, then it’s time to remove it from the heat and pack it into clean mason jars.¬† Don’t forget to remove the star anise chunk or someone is going to get a tooth-destroying, aggressively licorice-y surprise when they bite down.

Seal and refrigerate the jars when the contents have cooled down and enjoy!¬† Try to use it all up within three or four days.¬† That won’t be difficult.

*I think you could substitute a good honey for the sugar without any problems.  I am going to try this next time, and I will update this post if I find that it works.

**I think cinnamon would be lovely with this as well.¬† I’m also thinking about a whole vanilla bean.¬† And cardamom pods, versus the ground stuff.¬† Hmmmm….

***You could definitely process this in a boiling water canner for longer, safe storage.  You could also increase the size of the batch.

****I took a photograph of the jam as it was cooking in the pan, but let’s just say I’m a tad better at shooting landscapes and flowers.¬† You know what jam looks like.¬† ūüėČ

What are your favourite recipes using cranberries?




Recipe: Sea buckthorn and apple jelly.

It’s time for my annual visitation of this old-but-relevant post from 2012…’tis the season for harvesting sea buckthorn berries in Alberta (and many other places worldwide)! Tasty AND beautiful!


(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

My hubby and I managed to get out this past Saturday morning¬†and gather some sea buckthorn fruit so that I could try my hand at making jelly¬†from it.¬† If you‚Äôve been reading my blog for a while, you‚Äôll recall that I made a¬†sea buckthorn beverage¬†last year ‚Äď I just love the citrusy taste of the¬†berries and their gorgeous¬†sun-bright colour.

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)¬†is a fairly¬†common roadside plant here in Calgary ‚Äď the City planted many of them years ago, mostly for erosion control on slopes.¬† It‚Äôs one of those¬†shrubs you‚Äôd be hard-pressed to kill:¬† it‚Äôs tough-as-nails, drought-tolerant, pollution and salt-tolerant (good for our winter roads and all that de-icing salt), and a fairly¬†aggressive spreader.¬† You don‚Äôt find it employed as an ornamental¬†landscape plant very often, but it‚Äôs really very pretty, with silvery-green leaf clusters and the brilliant autumn fruit.¬† (Both male and female plants are required for fruit production).¬† Sure, some people may be turned off by the thorns, but they contribute to the shrub‚Äôs rabbit and deer resistance, which can‚Äôt be a bad thing, right?!

The only thing that irks me to no end about gathering sea buckthorn berries is that it‚Äôs just such a difficult process ‚Äď the fruit only¬†comes off¬†the stems under extreme duress.¬†¬† The kind of duress that leaves you standing there with bright orange seabuckthorn juice all over your clothes and squirted in your eye.¬†¬†I‚Äôve read that commercial harvesters of the shrub¬†just go along and prune off fruit-bearing branches, freeze them for awhile, and then ‚Äúshake‚ÄĚ the berries free‚Ķbut I didn‚Äôt give that a go.¬† I ought to have ‚Äď it took me FOREVER to get the berries off of the branches.

But it’s worth it for this jelly.  Trust me.  It’s so yummy and pretty!

Small-Batch Sea Buckthorn and Apple Jelly

(I added apples to this recipe because I didn‚Äôt use commercial pectin ‚Äď sea buckthorn¬†doesn‚Äôt have very¬†much¬†natural pectin, so the¬†addition of a high-pectin fruit helps the jelly set properly.¬† I¬†had some British Columbia-grown¬†‚ÄėSunrise‚Äô apples, but use any variety you love.¬† Crabapples would work as well).

4 cups sea buckthorn berries, washed thoroughly

3 apples, washed, peeled, cored, and diced finely (if you don’t want to go to the trouble, and your apples are organic, you can leave the peels on)

1/2 cup water

Place berries, apples and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer fruit for 20 minutes.  Stir periodically and crush the fruit against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon.  (It all mashes down pretty well on its own, and won’t require much additional help).

Strain the fruit through a jelly bag (or several layers of cheesecloth) over a large bowl.¬† Don‚Äôt force the fruit through the¬†bag ‚Äď this will make the jelly¬†cloudy¬†and you don‚Äôt want that!¬† Set it up so that the fruit can slowly strain overnight.

In the morning, sterilize your canning jars and lids.   Measure out the juice.  I ended up with 2 cups using this recipe, but your measurement may vary slightly.  Place the juice into a saucepan and mix in an equal amount of white sugar.  Bring the sugar and juice to a rolling boil and boil, stirring constantly, until you’ve reached gel point.

Carefully pour the jelly into the sterilized jars, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (don’t forget to adjust the length of time according to altitude, as specified in this handy chart).  If you plan to eat the jelly soon and don’t want to go to all the trouble of processing jars for storing, you can just pop the jars into the fridge once the jelly is cool.  It is a very small batch, after all…and you’ll be hooked once you have a taste!

Do you grow sea buckthorn in your garden, or do you forage for sea buckthorn berries?  

 Looking for more sea buckthorn berry recipes?

My sea buckthorn berry recipe book, Sea Buckthorn Bounty: Recipes is now available here!