Here, at the peak of fresh berry season, I find my head spinning. There are so many tart, juicy berries available that it's difficult to settle on just one variety to use for baking. With so many possibilities for fillings and never enough weekends for making pies, I've taken to mixing and matching berries to create great flavor combinations. It's like killing a couple of birds with a single, delicious stone.
In addition to creating awesome flavor, this strategy has practical benefits as well: it's an excellent use for berries that are just slightly past their raw consumption prime. These leftover berries haunt my fridge on Monday mornings, reminders of weekend picnics and trips to the park, berry juices seeping into their worn cardboard containers. I can't think of a better use for these than to toss them all together, sweeten to taste, and bake them into a pie. Or, if you've only got a small amount, keep a dedicated container of them in the freezer to accumulate and use down the road.
Some people get stressed when adjusting the sweetness "to taste". For best results, first taste the berries to assess their natural sweetness. Then, using a baseline guide of approximately 5 ounces of sugar to 3 pints of mixed berries, determine whether you need any less or more. If the berries are extra sweet and juicy, dial the sugar back a bit, and consider adding a little lemon zest to add a bit of acidity. If you're working with very acidic berries, dial up the sugar to compensate. Cooking with what nature gives you doesn't always make for solid recipes, but it does yield the more delicious results.
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Mixed Berry Pie (Made with Fresh Berries) »
About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.