July in south-central Germany: the sun is hot and high in the sky and seasonal eating is all about fruit. In the orchards, plump stone fruits hang heavily from the trees; at the farmers’ markets, stands are laden with fat, oozing plums and apricots and the berries are so ripe and plentiful that you can buy them on the cheap for making jam. Twice a week in July I return home from the marketplace weighed down by bags of sweet, juicy locally-grown fruit: if you’re enjoying the summer crops of berries and stone fruits as much as I am, then here are a few ideas with what to do with them all…
I love apricots (Aprikosen) in slow-cooked savoury dishes such as middle eastern tagines, stewed till they’re swollen with juices and almost falling apart. However, I think those dishes are best kept for the winter months, when I need something hearty to warm myself up with and can use dried apricots instead. In the summer, I think these velvety little fruits are best showed off in sweet breakfast treats or desserts such as:
★ a breakfast apricot crisp,
★ a quick apricot, apple and pecan loaf cake or
★ a simple apricot and almond tart.
Blueberries (Blaubeeren) are well known for being a “superfood”, chock full of antioxidants that are said to lower your risk of heart disease. It’s a bonus, then, that they taste delicious, wonderful little explosions of sweetness for scattering on a salad or mixing with other ripe summer fruits and a scoop of ice cream to create a perfect summer pudding. Simple dishes aside, I’m also rather keen to try:
★ blueberry and lemon cheesecake bars,
★ banana and blueberry smoothie and
★ oat, blueberry and walnut muffins.
I somewhat lost interest in Gooseberries (Stachelbeeren) when I fell into a very prickly bush of them as a child. However, their sharp flavour works extremely well in both sweet and savoury dishes, from crumbles and pies to sauces and coulis, and I very much like the sound of:
★ a classic gooseberry fool,
★ baked gooseberry, ginger and créme fraîche cheesecake or
★ grilled mackerel with gooseberry sauce.
Damsons (Zwetschen) are smooth, blueish-black apricot-shaped fruits with greeny-yellow flesh and a strong, acidic flavour, which makes them better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree (though I’m quite partial to them like that myself). Damsons are for sale by the kilo at our local market and in such a large quantity, would be perfect to buy for making jam. However, other rather more creative ideas for using up damsons include:
★ damson chutney spiced with cinnamon, allspice and cloves,
★ damson and blackberry Eton mess and
★ – one to save for the winter months – damson vodka, otherwise known as sloe gin.
Plums (Pflaumen) are easily confused with damsons, however they’re larger, more purple, have smaller stones and a much milder, sweeter taste. They go just as well with savoury as sweet dishes, so if you want to do something with them other than eat them raw and lick the sticky juice from your arms, how about trying:
★ pork tenderloin with plum chutney,
★ a drunken plum frangipane tart or
★ poached plums with brown sugar syrup.
Also in season in July: blackberries (Brombeeren), broad beans (Dicke Bohnen) cherries (Kirschen), green beans (Bohnen), peas (Erbsen), radishes (Radieschen), raspberries (Himbeeren) and red currants (Johannisbeeren).