Berries and recipes that capture that summer smell of ‘red’

Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries in bowls and colanders.
From jelly and jam to crisps and cakes, these are the best ways to make use of glorious summer berries.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

The summer months in L.A. don’t feel that exceedingly different from those in the spring. I know it’s really summer in Los Angeles when all the beautiful berries start making their appearance in the market. There’s a steady presence of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries almost the whole year at markets, but come summertime, the varieties and stands quadruple.

The air smells like sweet-tart raspberries and sweet-sweet strawberries — that unmistakable smell of “red.” And don’t forget the blueberries and blackberries too, with their inky, winey aromas and juices that leave your fingers stained deep purple from snacking by the punnets.

It’s this thrill of eating berries that I wanted to capture in the final part in my series on preserving Southern California’s best fruit. In this series, called L.A. in a Jar, I’ve covered stone fruit jam, apple butter, citrus marmalade and now, to conclude, berry jelly. I developed my favorite recipe of the lot so far, Blackberry Jelly With Amaro. It’s my favorite because it upends expectations of what people think a jelly is and tastes even better.

I hope you’ll click through and read all about the process, and even if you’re not a fruit preserver yourself, you’ll learn a bit about why the fruit in Southern California is worth savoring throughout the season.

And for those of you who love berries but not the idea of stirring them in pots with cups of sugar, here are a few other ideas to sate your appetite for the best fruits of late spring and early summer.

The easiest dessert you can make involves baking berries under a blanket of biscuit dough, as in this Mixed Berry Cobbler With Orange-Scented Biscuits. Orange highlights the sweet-tart balance in most berries and enlivens their flavor after cooking down and getting jammy beneath that pillowy floam of golden brown dough.

If you like your berries less cooked and fresher, then toppling them over this Berry Pavlova With Vanilla Whipped Cream and Pistachios is the way to go. Making a meringue is easy and takes only a bit of a hands-free time commitment. The crunchy, sugary base is perfect contrasted with fluffy whipped cream and those tart, juicy berries.

And if you want a fun spin on a classic, Genevieve Ko’s Strawberry Shortcake Cookies are the ticket. They give you the flavor of the classic summer dessert but with a lot less work. Strawberries are, obviously, the berry to use here, but feel free to switch it up and go all blackberry or blueberry — or, as is the thrill of the season, with a mix of all the berries you can get your hands on, letting each bite surprise you with a different burst of summer sweetness.


Blackberry Jelly With Amaro

The dark, inky sweetness of blackberries pairs beautifully with a refreshingly bitter shot of amaro in this grown-up berry jelly. Chopped green apples are added to the berries to provide pectin, which helps set the jelly with its characteristic wobbliness.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2½ hours, plus overnight cooling

 A spoon and a glass jar containing Blackberry Jelly With Amaro
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Summer Pudding Jam

This jam is a great solution for those times when you come home from the farmers market with a half-pint of every berry you couldn’t resist buying but aren’t sure what to do with them. If you buy an extra half-pint of berries every time you go to the market, throw them in the freezer and come November, when you’re facing the true onset of winter, you can make what tastes like British summer pudding, a mixture of juicy sweetened berries encased in soft white bread.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour

English muffins spread with butter and Summer Pudding Jam
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

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Mixed Berry Cobbler With Orange-Scented Biscuits

This cobbler topping comes together in just a couple of minutes. It’s basically just a cream biscuit dough that you drop by large spoonfuls on top of berries before baking. Flavor the dough with orange zest or slivered basil to go best with berries.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 55 minutes

Berry Pavlova With Vanilla Whipped Cream and Pistachios

A Pavlova is a disarmingly easy dessert. The trick to a good one is a meringue that has a crisp, crunchy exterior and a tender, airy center with a texture like homemade marshmallow but not gooey. The trick to accomplishing this is incredibly simple: the addition of a little cornstarch and vinegar.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Toasted on top and tender in the center, these buttery cookies are packed with juicy strawberries. For an even crunchier top, sprinkle with sanding or coarse raw sugar.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

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