Saving Summer: Aronia Berries

It’s late, late August…so I might be getting a wee bit nostalgic already for summer foods. I know they’ll soon be gone.

This photo is a snapshot of a berry syrup I made. It’s also sitting in front of bowls containing two other ephemeral pleasures: fresh peaches and tomatoes.

Aronia

I have come to appreciate the joy that comes from “seasonal mindfulness” (I made that up…it means enjoying those summer treasures in the moment, without obsessing over saving them for later). But sometimes on a cold, grey day, you just want to be reminded of the best of summer foods. Because canning is time consuming, I have never really tried it. I usually stick to things I can freeze (roasted tomatoes or peppers) that things that will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, like quick pickles, sauces, etc.

Last Saturday I was (easily) talked into buying two cups of local aronia berries, which I’ve had in jam form before (made by a local farmer and sold at the Thanksgiving Market). But I decided the quickest thing I could make with this amount was a sauce on the stove.

Aronia berries are really tart, and I had a handful of blueberries in the fridge that were about to go bad, so I tossed those in the saucepan, too. The recipe I used also calls for lemon, but I only had lime – it turned out great!

It only made a small amount but it’s really lovely – not overly sweet, and the touch of ginger and vanilla adds depth. I’m interested in the medicinal qualities of ginger, plus I like the taste, but you could easily leave it out. I also strained the sauce, but you could keep it chunky.

I’ve been spreading this on toast this week, but you could also put it on plain yogurt, on pancakes, waffles, or French toast.

I’ll be looking for more aronia berries at the market next week!

Aronia Berries!

I paid a visit to our local Food Forest yesterday, and was so blown away by how much everything has grown over the last month!! Left-behind asparagus has grown 5′ high and more, developing feathery ferns, which will help to transfer energy to the roots for next year’s spears. Giant golden, black, and red raspberries are just on the edge of ripeness, and I spied a few tiny green apples and peaches, but what’s really exciting my “I love a challenge” side at the moment is the Aronia!

Aronia, or chokeberry, is a strange little thick-skinned black berry that you may even find you have growing in yours or a neighbor’s yard. They’re native to the U.S., and grow well with little maintenance. The berries are not very tasty to eat right off the vine, but they have an unusually dry red wine flavor, that develops with the addition of some sweetness and something acid. They’re also packed with nutrients like antioxidants and Vitamin C. If you use well-tested recipes and draw on some good tips for bringing out the best of the berry, you can create some very tasty final products: syrups, jams and jellies, and baked goods.

I plan to make some jam this weekend, and will post to Facebook. Share yours!