Whew! That last post sure generated a lot of passionate discussion. I'm still reeling, which is why I am going to give you all a break and write about a favourite topic on a lighter note: dessert.
The stages of summer in the Fraser Valley are defined by whatever lucious berry is in season. In June we have strawberries, with the Catholic Women's League's annual strawberry tea as a high point (delicious tiny little tea sandwiches, my favourite is the wrapped asparagus - and a generous portion of homemade strawberry shortcake). Local strawberries are deep red through and through, juicy and quick to spoil - especially if one buys a large quantity late in the season, then develops a secondary sinus infection thus leaving the berries ignored for two days. I had to compost half of them, but the rest are in the freezer thanks to my husband buckling down and helping me hull them and freeze them on trays individually before putting in ice cream buckets to enjoy late in the year with waffles or cake, or soon, in cooling frozen fruit smoothies.
July is defined by raspberries and blueberries. We have our own small plot of raspberry bushes which we pick from every couple of days and enjoy fresh on our granola, or with french toast. This week my girls and I looked after a friends' farm, and one of our 'jobs' was to pick raspberries from their plentiful bushes for our own use, so we will have extra raspberries in the freezer to make up for the dearth of strawberries this year. Blueberries, I buy in quantity and freeze as well, for blueberry sauce, for muffins, or fresh for a favourite family recipe, Blueberry Creamcheese Pie: fresh blueberries surrounded by sweetened blueberry sauce on a minimal layer of lemon-flavoured cream cheese in a graham wafer crust. The only word to describe it is an old one - toothsome. In my parents' part of the province, sweet purple huckleberries are used instead of blueberries. They make an even better pie.
Blueberries continue into August and when they are done it is time to pick wild blackberries from a favourite secret spot. Ours, unfortunately, has been discovered by earlier and more savvy birds than we, so last year we picked at our friends' farm and enjoyed four gallons of blackberries over the winter. Blackberries coincide with the early apples, so apple-blackberry crisp, a favourite of my husband's is a common dessert in our house come the gold-tinged days of autumn.
I include a newly discovered recipe (pictured above) for a dessert I served to friends on Canada's birthday, July 1st. It was so good, it was suggested I put the recipe on my blog. The recipe can also be found in the book Whitewater Cooks at Home, by Shelley Adams (of my hometown). The meringues are crisp on the outside, but chewy and soft in the middle - just the way I like them, and the whipped cream has a slight tang from the sour cream which goes very well with the fruit.
Meringues with Raspberries (or any berry) and Cream
4 egg whites, room temperature
pinch (1 ml) of salt
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) cornstarch
1 tsp (5 ml) lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (375 ml)whipping cream
1/4 cup (60 ml) sour cream
3 Tbsp (45 ml) icing sugar (confectioners sugar - the powdered kind)
2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500 ml) fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (105 degrees celcius).
Make 8 approximately 4 inch (10 cm) circles on 2 sheets of parchment paper by tracing a glass or cookie cutter with a pencil or pen. Flip the paper circles over and place them on 2 baking sheets.
Whip the egg whites and salt until frothy on medium high.
Start adding the sugar 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time and keep beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks and all the sugar is added. Mix the cornstarch and lemon juice together and fold into egg whites gently.
Spread the meringue onto the traced circles making a little nest shape with the back of a spoon.
Bake for about an hour and a half. You don't want the meringues to brown at all so check them at 20 minutes and turn the oven down if necessary. When done they should be dry and crisp and easy to remove from the parchment paper.
Cool on a rack.
Whip cream for a minute or two then add sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla. Whip to soft peaks.
Assemble the meringues on a big platter or individual plates. Pile the tops up with the cream and then the fruit. You can give them a little dusting of icing sugar if you like.
Enjoy! And happy berry season!