Like sweet tea and fireflies, blackberries are a sure sign summer is on its way.
Home cook Cindy Ferguson of Shepherdsville makes this seasonal berry the star of her festive bundt cake and shared her recipe at justapinch.com. Use either fresh or frozen berries, accent the batter with real vanilla extract and serve it all atop a cake platter with more blackberries.
VANILLA BLACKBERRY CAKE
2 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup white sugar
2 cup flour, self rising
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup butter, softened
11⁄2 cup white sugar
8 egg yolks
2 to 3 teaspoons real vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup milk
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
Combine blackberries and sugar; set aside.
Grease and flour bundt pan. Sift together flour and cornstarch and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar for cake until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, then beat in the vanilla.
Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk and cream, mixing until incorporated.
Pour half of batter into bundt pan. Spoon blackberries onto batter.
Cover the blackberry layer in the bundt pan with the remaining batter. Bake at 350F for approximately 1 hour.
Cool about 10 minutes and then turn onto a cake server. The blackberries will then be on the top of the cake.
Garnish serving plate with a few blackberries and fill the hole of the cake with more blackberries, if desired.
Even I can make freezer jam and I’m not a canner.
If you have the privilege of picking your own berries, freezer jam is a must.
Here’s a recipe from kraftrecipes.com that’s super easy and maintains the freshness of summer right through the winter.
BLACKBERRY FREEZER JAM
2 cups prepared fruit (buy about 2 pints fully ripe blackberries)
4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 pouch Certo Fruit Pectin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Rinse clean plastic containers and lids with boiling water. Dry thoroughly.
Crush blackberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. (Press half of the pulp through a sieve to remove some of the seeds, if desired.) Measure exactly 2 cups prepared fruit into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix pectin and lemon juice. Add to blackberry mixture; stir 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.)
Fill containers immediately to within 1⁄2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze up to a year. Thaw in refrigerator.
Food Network shares some tips on fresh produce.
‰Zesting citrus: Citrus zest adds almost calorie-free brightness to everything from salad dressings to cakes to main dishes. Use a microplane for best results, and stop when you get to the bitter white pith.
‰How to break down a butternut squash: Cut off both ends and scoop the seeds out of the opening in the wide end with a spoon.
Wearing an apron, hold the squash against your chest and remove the skin with a peeler, working toward you.
Cut the squash where the body becomes bulbous; halve each section lengthwise and dice.
‰Cutting a mango: To safely cut a mango, cut off the top and bottom so the fruit can stand. Cut skin with a paring knife, then cut off strips around the large pit.
McCormick and Co., a great source of food information, has suggestions for some beat-the-heat goodies.
“Most people already have all the ingredients they need to make frozen treats right at home,” said Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens. “Creating frozen fruit pops and shaved ice is a fun summertime activity for kids and adults alike that can take shape in any flavor and color combination you can imagine. Popular seasonal flavors like cotton candy, strawberry lemonade and blue raspberry will have everyone gathering around the freezer.”
Frozen Fruit Pops: These customizable and easy-to-grab snacks are as fun to eat as they are to make. Plus, with nutrient-packed ingredients such as fresh pineapple or strawberries, parents will feel good serving these hand-crafted treats to youngsters.
This recipe is as simple as adding fruit and complementary flavors to a blender. Then, pour into popsicle molds and freeze until set. Have fun with a variety of combinations for everyone in the family. Make Strawberry Lemonade pops with frozen strawberries and lemon extract or explore adult flavors such as Piña Colada by pairing pineapple chunks and juice with coconut extract for a momentary tropical escape.
Tip: Try using 3- or 4-ounce paper cups if you don’t have popsicle molds. Cover each cup in foil and insert a wooden pop stick through the top to create a handle.
Blend up a little extra and freeze in ice cube trays to give summertime beverages a refreshing flavor twist. For example, combine fresh watermelon with strawberry extract to create watermelon cooler cubes to brighten up sparkling water or clear soda. Raspberry and peach cubes are a simple way to turn ordinary iced tea into unique summer refreshments.
Easy Fruity Shaved Ice: Cool down with a frosty blast from the past that uses five or less ingredients. With flavors like Crushed Orange and Strawberry Cotton Candy, shaved ice is always perfect. Top shaved ice with homemade syrups in inventive flavor combinations. Add a few drops of food color to complement the taste — such as pairing red and yellow food color with orange extract. Or have fun and vary the color to mimic the vibrant shades of summer. Blue food color and raspberry extract make a playful combination.
Tip: If you don’t have a shaved ice maker, crush ice to a snowy texture in your blender or by wrapping a plastic bag of ice in a kitchen towel and smashing it with a rolling pin or mallet. This can be a fun project for children so long as they have adult supervision.
Tip: Arrange a DIY shaved ice station at your next summer gathering for a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Fill a large vessel with shaved ice and set out squeeze bottles filled with different flavored syrups so guests can mix and match to their hearts’ content.
While I don’t claim to be an expert cook, I do like to cook and love to eat. Readers are encouraged to send questions about food and cooking; I’ll try to find the answers. Also, if you’re looking for a specific recipe, send your request, or if you can offer a recipe to someone looking for something specific, please send email to email@example.com.