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Luscious berries: Mississippi's berries are in abundance and ready to eat ... or drink: a summertime staple.

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Back in the old days, which for me is somewhere around the 1960's, the only way you could get your hands on a few delicious blackberries was to find your way to someone's grandparent's house that had sweet blackberry bushes growing along a prickly barbed wire fence. I was one of the lucky ones who had a pal or two with grandparents of such nature. I remember visiting and going out early in the cool of the morning to avoid the sweltering mid-day sun and pesky mosquitoes. We would walk barefoot through wet grass, complaining all the way about stepping on stickers. Once we found our treasure, we plucked relentlessly at the deep-purple berries until our fingers were sore. Our faces would turn rosy-red from the summertime heat and humidity that we all love and cherish in Mississippi. Even after an hour or so of furiously picking, eating, swatting, and sweating, the most we could hope for was enough for a juicy cobbler. Then we would race back to the house covered in bites, thorn scratches, and blackberry-stained lips and barrel into the kitchen with our harvest. Later that evening, we would enjoy a buttery pie, glistening with sugar and a big dollop of freshly whipped cream or homemade ice cream.

I think of these times when I am at the local grocery store, amazed at the absolutely gorgeous blackberries right at my fingertips in the produce department. I am astonished that they are so available and so affordable. Even the elusive and fragile raspberry is incredibly plump, ruby-red, or golden in color, and will last several days in the refrigerator.

Blackberries should also be handled carefully by storing them in the refrigerator until needed. They only need a gentle rinsing before use. When shopping, look for deep, even-colored berries that are plump and full with a nice sheen. Berries should be free from dents or broken bumps, which add to the breakdown of the berries. Keep the berries in their original package as close to 34-degrees and high humidity as possible for optimal freshness.

Strawberries and blueberries are available year-round, but I always look forward to the Louisiana strawberries, which are particularly sweet and delicious. Some of the best berries can be found in fruit stands along the roadside of Highway 49 beginning in March and April. Even the glamorous, long-stemmed giant strawberries are available in some grocery stores and are perfect for dipping in melted white or dark chocolate for a spectacular sweet specialty.

If you can't find the perfect berry in the produce section, frozen produce works well in most recipes. Now, berries are frozen whole, with little or no sugar, and they hold up remarkably well when thawed. They are perfect for cobblers, pies, smoothies, and teas. All of these berries come with a wealth of health benefits as they contain high concentrations of anthocyanins or antioxidants, which give them their deep red, blue, and black colors. They have anti-aging and cancer-preventative effects, as well as protection from heart disease and mental decline. The darker berries have the highest concentration of antioxidants.

Berries are delicious, healthy, and so much easier to come by than they were in the old days. They are as close as your grocery store, and you don't have to worry about the heat, the mosquitoes, or the snakes. However, I do think it might be nice to visit a blackberry thicket for fun sometimes and eat a tasty cobbler with ice-cream that someone's grandmother made. Enjoy these recipes and relish the good old days!
ROSEMARY-RASPBERRY
BARBECUE GRILLED SHRIMP

(shown on cover)

RASPBERRY VINEGAR

2 cups raspberries
2 cups white vinegar

Combine raspberries and white vinegar
in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium
heat. Remove from heat, and cool. Set aside.
Raspberry vinegar can be stored in
a clean jar for 2 weeks and can be used
in salad dressings and marinades.

Yield: 2 1/4 cups.

ROSEMARY-RASPBERRY
BARBECUE GRILLED SHRIMP

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup raspberries, divided
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
2 1/4 cups raspberry vinegar, divided
12 rosemary skewers soaked in water
24 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

In sauce pan, saute onion in butter until
translucent. Add 1 cup raspberries, soy sauce,
Worcestershire sauce, salt, red pepper flakes,
dry mustard, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Add 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar mixture
and cook for 5 minutes, stirring well. Remove
from heat. When mixture is cool, add
shrimp and toss well. Using fresh rosemary
sprigs with a woody stem, strip leaves from
3/4 of the sprig, leaving the top leaves intact.
Skewer each sprig with 2 shrimps and place
on grill over medium, indirect heat. Grill for
2 minutes and turn shrimp, brushing with
remaining vinegar. Cook for an additional
2-3 minutes until shrimp are cooked through,
being careful not to burn rosemary leaves.
Garnish with remaining berries and serve.
For marinade, boil remaining vinegar for one
minute, add one stick of butter, and serve
as a dipping sauce.

Yield: 6 servings.


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VERY-BERRY SMOOTHIE

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blackberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
1 cup pineapple juice
Berries and mint for garnish

Mix all ingredients in blender
until smooth. Taste for sweetness
and add a pinch of sugar if needed.
Serve in glasses garnished with additional
berries and mint if desired.

Yield: 2 servings.

ROAST PORK TENDERLOINS WITH BLACKBERRY SAUCE

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper,
 freshly ground
1 teaspoon paprika
2 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloins

Combine canola oil, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce,
salt, pepper, and paprika. Rub mixture onto tenderloins and marinate
in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. To roast, sear
tenderloins in a skillet. Transfer to a roasting pan. Bake at 350
degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches 160
to 165 degrees. To serve, carve meat into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve
with Blackberry Sauce.

Yield: 8-12 servings.

BLACKBERRY SAUCE

1 (10- to 12-ounce) jar seedless
 blackberry jam
2 tablespoons seasoned
 rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Hot pepper to taste
Fresh blackberries for garnish

Whisk together all ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Sauce can be made ahead and
refrigerated; warm to serve. Garnish meat and sauce with fresh
berries.

Yield: about 2 cups.


All Things Good, Palates & Palettes of the Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew

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berry picking

You can go berry picking at one of Mississippi's many berry farms or on your grandparents' farm, and just a little preparation will make your day much more enjoyable as well as provide you with a bountiful harvest.

Call the farm you plan to visit for the best time to make the trip. Go in May or June for strawberries, June through August for blueberries and blackberries, and July through October for raspberries. You may also go to www.pickyourown.org/ms.htm to locate berry farms in your area.

Take a sack lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Don't forget handi-wipes for cleaning stained fingers! Bug repellant and sunscreen are also necessities. Dress appropriately. Wear old clothes and shoes that you do not mind staining. Tight fitting clothing will help keep insects where they belong, and a wide-brimmed hat will protect you from the sun.

Blackberries--Pick early in the morning and they will not spoil as quickly. The ripest berries are those that come off easily.

Blueberries--Choose berries that are uniform in color that pull easily from the vine with little pressure.

Raspberries--It is best to use your thumb, index, and middle fingers to pick these berries. Handle them as little as possible, and gently place them in your bucket. If they fall easily from the vine, they are probably ripe.

Strawberries--When picking strawberries, go early in the day before the berries warm up. To pick each strawberry, snap it off with the stem still attached (they deteriorate more quickly when only left with their caps). Look for berries that are almost three-quarters fully red. Their color will continue to develop to a robust red over the next day or so after picking if stored at room temperature. Don't pick the berries too early in their development. If they are less than half colored, the flavor will never develop.

PRESERVING YOUR HARVEST

Items needed: colander, fresh-picked berries, flat pan, vacuum sealer and bags or Ziploc freezer bags

Place berries in the colander, and allow them to sit untouched for approximately 10 minutes to drain any excess liquid. Spread the berries flat on a freezer-safe pan. Keep them in one layer, as this will make it easier to remove them once frozen. Freeze them as quickly as possible, preferably overnight. Remove the berries, and break them apart. Place the berries in the vacuum sealer or Ziploc bags. Remove as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn. Keep berries in the coldest part of freezer until ready to use.

To use the frozen berries, remove them from the freezer and allow to thaw or place them in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, rinse in cold water, filtering out any soft or spoiled berries, stems, or other pieces.
BLACKBERRY COBBLER
WITH BUTTER CRUST

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter,
 cut into small pieces
5 tablespoon ice water
5 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter,
 cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425
degrees. For the crust, place flour,
salt, and sugar in the bowl of a
food processor, fitted with a steel
blade, and mix. Add cold butter,
one piece at a time, using the pulse
button, until mixture resembles
cornmeal. Add ice water in drops
until pastry comes together. Pat
out into a round, wrap in plastic,
and chill for 30 minutes.

Rinse and drain the berries, and
place in a bowl. Mix flour and
1 cup sugar together, and sprinkle
over berries. Add butter and toss
gently. On a lightly floured board,
roll out half of the dough and
place in a 9-inch pie plate. Add
berries. Roll out remaining dough,
and lay over filling. Pinch sides to
seal. Cut slits in the top of crust to
vent during baking. Sprinkle sugar
and cinnamon over the top of the
dough. Bake for 35 minutes until
crust is golden brown. Serve warm.

Yield: 6-8 servings.


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BLACKBERRY TEA

Chef John Fleer of the legendary
Blackberry Farm Resort in Tennessee
served this tea at a cooking class at
Viking's Cooking School. It is a beautiful,
summertime drink that looks fabulous
in a pretty pitcher.

3 cups frozen blackberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups boiling water

2 family-size tea bags

2 1/2 cups cold water

Fresh mint sprigs

In a bowl, combine berries
and sugar, well, with a wooden
spoon. Pour boiling water over tea
bags, and let steep for 5 minutes.
Remove tea bags and stir in baking
soda. Pour tea over blackberry
sugar mixture, and mix well. Pour
blackberry tea through a fine sieve.
Discard solids. Add cold water,
and stir briskly until all sugar is
dissolved. Chill until ready to serve.
Garnish with mint sprigs.

Yield: 4 servings.

FRESH BERRIES
WITH LIME-SUGAR GLAZE

2 limes, zest and juice
1 cup fresh red raspberries
1 cup fresh golden raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipped cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh mint leaves

Zest limes, and set aside for garnish. Juice
limes. Toss berries with lime juice and powdered
sugar until sugar has melted and berries
are shiny. Chill. Whip cream with vanilla until
it makes soft peaks. Place 1/2 cup berries in a
martini glass and top with a dollop of whipped
cream. Serve in martini glasses or compotes
and garnish with mint leaves and lime zest

Yield: 8 servings.


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BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh blueberries

TOPPING:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 16
muffin cups with cooking spray, and set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten
egg. Stir in milk, and set aside. In another bowl
sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir
flour mixture into butter mixture. Carefully
blend in lemon juice and drained blueberries.
Pour muffin pans two-thirds full. Mix together
topping ingredients until it resembles crumbs.
Sprinkle on top of muffins. Bake for 20 to 25
minutes or until toothpick, inserted in center
of muffin, comes out clean.

Yield: 16 muffins.

Easy Hospitality
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:food: home matters
Author:Burgess, Emily Hines
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Cover story
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:2240
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