Winter time is not exactly the most exciting part of the year for someone who loves to bake with the seasons. Compared to the abundance of summer with all its delectable fruits and fresh flowers, winter literally pales in comparison. Sure, I love the darker flavors that come with this season. Salted caramel, chocolate, coffee, ginger and molasses and things of that nature are all amazing in their own ways. But I always miss the bright and lovely gifts of summer.
And that, my friends, is just one of the reasons that I absolutely love growing my own food. I’ve styled my life around this preference for the most part. I haven’t lived much in cities, and even when I have, I’ve often managed to scrape up at least a little bit of earth for a garden. Maybe some backyard chickens, like I had when I lived in Portland, Oregon. But for a while now, I’ve been living in the country. I’ve even lived on a working farm or two.
Having my own garden means I have a lot of control over the things that fill my cupboards for months into the future. It also means I can chose every edible flower that might be perfect for decorating or flavoring my next cake. To me, gardening means canning and preserving food. It is the best way to make use of the continuous generosity of the plants I chose so carefully.
So, I have a lot of summer goodies on hand even in the middle of winter. I have frozen berries of almost every kind. There are compotes and butters that I canned on the front porch on the hottest days of the year. I made extracts out of wild berries and flowers to extend their flavors into longer seasons. I dried chilies and flowers and berries so they could be stored for long periods of time.
Now, the question is how to make use of it all? Well, that is the fun part! You’ll find all sorts of projects to make. Some of my favorites have been using apple butter to make a spice cake, filling a hazelnut cake with plum preserves, and boosting the flavor of a summery cake by adding elderflower bourbon.
Today, we’re going to focus on frozen berries, because anyone can get their hands on those at any time of year. There may be endless ways to use these, but let’s start with 5 ideas to get the creative juices flowing.
#1. Make a curd
Oh, the lovely curd. If you’ve been around the blog, you probably know I’m a big fan. Why? Because curds are delicious, beautiful, and versatile. A curd is basically the juice of some fruit, lightly sweetened and thickened with eggs. It can be made with just about anything, which is another reason for the awesome-points. And, of course, it does not require fresh fruit. Frozen berries are great for making curds. Try frozen cranberries in this cranberry curd, or use elderberries to make this gorgeous plum & elderberry curd.
Or, check out these beauties from the Adventures in Cooking blog – they’re tarts made from a summery blueberry, lemon, and olive oil curd.
Use your frozen berry curd to fill a cake or tart. Or, just eat by the spoonful. I won’t judge.
#2. Make a frosting
Possibly my favorite use for frozen berries is to put them in a frosting. It doesn’t require very much fruit, and the big bonus here is that it gives the icing color without the need for nasty food coloring.
See what I mean? You can even make an ombre cake like I did with my elderberry confetti cake or blueberry lemon cake. However, my favorite is to add cooked berries to cream cheese frosting. It’s simply just the best frosting in existence.
#3. Make a sauce
Is this one too obvious? I’m going to assume that nothing is. I actually prefer to use frozen berries in sauces over fresh ones. Fruit sauces are insanely easy to make and I use them to fill cakes as much as I use them to serve with, or on top of, desserts. All you really need to do is cook the berries down gently with a bit of water, and some sugar and lemon juice to taste. I’ve done this about a thousand times and still don’t feel the need to change the recipe or technique.
#4. Add to batters
Of course, you can always just throw some frozen berries into the batter of your muffins or cakes. This just takes a little extra thought sometimes. You wouldn’t just dump a bunch of whole frozen strawberries into cake batter. Remember that frozen fruits will let out more water in the baking process than their fresh counterparts. Great berries to add to batters would be blueberries, elderberries, huckleberries, and raspberries (the smaller ones). It helps to toss the berries with a very light dusting of flour before adding into the batter. This keeps them from all sinking to the bottom.
Try this elderberry confetti cake. This recipe could easily be made into muffins, or you could sub other small frozen berries for the elderberries.
#5. Make a shrub
How have I not talked about shrubs yet on the blog? Shrubs are vinegar-based syrups that were once a big part of the cocktail scene. They’ve had a bit of a resurgence recently, and for good reason. They’re delicious! A shrub is basically a concoction made of fruit juice with nearly equal parts vinegar and sugar, cooked down until thick. They can be made with any flavor, so it’s really fun to experiment here.
Shrubs are used to add flavor – and color – to cocktails. Or, make a “mocktail” by adding some to a sparkling beverage. This raspberry shrub looks exquisite.
And now, I’m going to have to promise to get my recipe up for Elderberry Shrub. I make it every year after I harvest elderberries, and it’s become one of my favorite uses for the berries. It makes for many a delicious cocktail. Perhaps one day I’ll even come up with a way to use it in a dessert.
Well, I hope that gives you some ideas for how to free up some space in your freezer. Enjoy a little bit of summer here in the heart of winter!
As always, happy baking!
P.S. Do you have any favorite techniques or specific recipes to use your frozen berries? I’d love to hear from you!