Cheryl Alters Jamison’s Summer Berry Recipes

Berries––whether juicy blackberries, perfectly ripe strawberries, or any of the other berry clan––sing of summer. They don’t last long so catch them while you can. Cheryl Alters Jamison shows us how to make the most of them in everything from savory to sweet recipes.  

Raspberries were my first summer love. I grew up in the Midwest where our closest neighbor, Mr. Leedy, grew the fetching red fruits. He generously shared pints and pints of them with my family, but was persnickety about anyone entering his well-tended garden. However, I could not resist raiding the raspberry patch, where those dangling little orbs of crimson simply tantalized six-year-old me.  

I would wriggle through my home’s hedge into our neighbor’s neat rows of trellised berry bushes, crawling among the thorny canes. The danger of getting scratched, or tearing my clothes, and of getting caught paled, though, relative to the joy of plucking those warm berries, oozing juice, and popping them into my mouth. I invariably was marched back to my parents by Mr. Leedy, and then had to perform some penance, but it was always worth it to me.  

Few fruits rival summer’s ripe raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and regional favorites like loganberries, boysenberries, huckleberries, tayberries, and other cousins. Unfortunately, many have been bred in more recent years for sturdiness and shipability instead of peak flavor. When possible, shop at farm stands and farmers’ markets to find more fragile fruits, picked at peak ripeness.  

Once you’ve found the best berries, treat them right. Berries begin to deteriorate almost as soon as they are picked, so shop for them as close to the time that you plan to eat them as possible. As soon as you return home, gently remove them from the container and discard any that are moldy or disintegrating. Store them in a single layer on a baking sheet or shallow tray, and cover loosely. Do not wash until you’re ready to devour them, or add them to one of these recipes.  

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Blackberry-Herb Sauce

A blackberry chicken recipe with sprigs of rosemary for garnish

Some years ago, I was invited to participate in a grilling demo sponsored by the Weber folks in Portland, OR. I came up with this idea to make use of the area’s iconic berries, in season at the time. I don’t remember much about the day now, except that all of the invited chefs grilled out on the rooftop of a downtown building without catching anyone or anything on fire, and that everyone loved this dish.

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Raspberry-Mint Vinegar Drizzle

A lamb burger sits on a green plate topped with berries with stray berries and mint are scattered on the table.

Back in the 1980s, influential American cookbook authors Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame, popularized ingredients like goat cheese, raspberry vinegar, and even fresh herbs. One of their dishes that most impressed me was a lamb burger that combined all of those flavors. I’ve made a variety of versions of it over more than three decades. Here’s a tempting summer rendition, using fresh raspberries as well as well as vinegar infused with the crimson fruit.

Spinach Salad with Blueberries & Blue Cheese

A fresh summer salad with blueberries and blue cheese.

Blueberries and blue cheese are lead players in this bright salad, anything but a rote toss-up. Supporting players cucumber, celery, and candied walnuts add texture and crunch. If possible, avoid the nearly flavorless baby spinach rampant in supermarkets today in favor of leaves with a bit of character, like crinkly savoy spinach. For a little more heft, add slivers of prosciutto.

Mixed Berry Stuffed French Toast

A plate of French toast with berries on a green plate.

Who doesn’t love French toast? This version is a serious morning wake-up call. If you’re familiar with British summer pudding, it may remind you of it, with bread soaking up deeply colored juices. For the best texture, use a somewhat soft bread rather than a super-crusty country loaf.

Pinwheel Strawberry Biscuit Pie

A plate of strawberry pinwheel biscuit pies from TABLE Magazine's recipe

This begins as biscuit dough and then morphs into a wondrous cross between a shortcake and a cobbler, cooked with fresh strawberries and jam in a pie dish. It’s pretty, as well as pretty delicious.

If working with conventional grocery store strawberries, start with a full two pounds of fruit. By the time you rid them of their cottony-white cores, you will have sent a quarter to half a pound to the compost heap. If you can start with truly ripe berries, such as the small frais de bois type often available at farmers’ markets, you can get by with 1½ pounds to end up with your needed four cups. You can substitute another kind of berry, or combine multiple varieties, if you wish. A dollop of softly whipped cream would be a welcome final flourish, as would a little moat of plain cream poured around each portion.

Story by Cheryl Alters Jamison / Styling Anna Franklin / Photography by Dave Bryce 

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