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Yummy recipes for an array of Alaska wild berries

Jill Burke
Kirsten Dixon photo

Let's assume you're back from a successful berry-picking trip -- or three. You've got the goods. Now what? What follows are a few of our favorite wild berry recipes. Eat and be healthy. 

Akutaq-Alaskan / Eskimo Ice Cream: This is a light, fluffy dessert and recipes vary greatly. Some include fish or meat. Others are strictly berries and fat. The recipe below comes from www.cooks.com:

1 cup Crisco
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar, more if desired
1/2 cup raisins, soaked
4 cup berries

Soak raisins in hot water. In a bowl, whip the Crisco and water until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and mix well until it dissolves. Add berries and raisins; mix. Chill before serving. Salmonberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries may be used.

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Ligonberry

Low bush cranberries or lingonberries: This recipe comes from the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service.

Lingonberry Jelly

3 cups lingonberry juice        
3 cups sugar
3 ounces liquid pectin

To extract the juice:  Combine 4 cups of cleaned lingonberries with 2-1/2 cups water. Crush berries. Bring water to a simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag or use a colander lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Let the juice drip into a bowl. For clear juice, do not twist or press jelly bag or cheesecloth. For long-term storage, the juice should be canned or frozen.

To make the jam:  Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars for 10 minutes in boiling water. Prepare lids and bands. Open pectin pouch and stand it upright in a cup or glass. Measure juice into a large saucepan. Stir in sugar. Place on high heat; stir constantly and bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin and heat again to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam. Immediately pour jelly into hot canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Yield: 3 cups.

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Blueberry

Blueberry Applesauce Fruit Leather: This recipe comes from the University of Alaska's Cooperative Extension Service.

1 cup blueberry puree 
1 cup unsweetened applesauce 
1 tablespoon honey

Preparing Puree:

• Cooked Method: Add 1 cup water to 4 cups blue- berries. Cook until skins have popped. Press through a food mill or sieve. Discard skins and seeds. Yield: 2 cups

• Uncooked Method: Rinse 4 cups blueberries; drain, put in a blender and blend until the consistency of thick puree. Yield: 2 cups

For long-term storage, the puree may be immediately dried as fruit leather or frozen. To freeze, pack puree into rigid containers leaving 1⁄2-inch head space to allow for expansion. Seal and freeze. Canning is not a safe method of preserving puree.

Making Fruit Leather:

• Oven dry: Combine blueberry puree, applesauce and honey. Line a cookie sheet with microwaveable plastic wrap. Spread puree mixture evenly about 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 inch thick over the plastic, but do not push it completely to the sides. Leave a bit of plastic show- ing for easy removal. Dry at 140 degrees for 10 to 18 hours, leaving oven door slightly open so moisture can escape. Test periodically for dryness. The fruit leather is dry when it is pliable and peels easily off the plastic.

• Dehydrator: Lightly oil the plastic tray or spread the puree on parchment paper cut to fit the dryer racks. Do not push the puree completely to the sides. Dry at 140 degrees for about eight hours until evenly dry. It should have a leathery texture. While warm, peel from plastic and roll. Allow to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic. Place the wrapped pieces in a heavy plastic bag or airtight storage container. Leather will keep up to one month in a cool, dry, dark place. For storage up to one year, place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer.

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Triple-Berry Crisp: This triple-berry crisp recipe from Anjanette Steer of Sheep Mountain Lodge is one she uses for a crisp or pie. She suggests combining blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. 

1 double pie crust
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cup fresh sliced strawberries
2 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

In large mixing bowl combine all ingredients.  Prepare and roll out a 9 inch pie crust.  Fill crust with filling. Cover pie with pie dough and seal. Cut slits in pastry. Crimp edge as desired.  Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, bake at 350 until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Cool completely before serving.

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Nagoon berries

 This recipe comes from the University of Alaska's Cooperative Extension Center.

Nagoonberry Syrup

1 cup nagoonberry juice 
2 cups sugar 
1 teaspoon lemon juice

• Extracting Juice: Combine 4 cups cleaned nagoonberries with 1 cup water. Crush berries. Bring just to a simmer, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Place in jelly bag or layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Let the juice drip into a bowl. For clear juice, do not twist or press jelly bag or cheesecloth. For long-term stor- age, the juice should be frozen or canned. Yield: 2 cups

• Making the Syrup: Combine nagoonberry and lemon juices and sugar in a saucepan and heat to 160 degrees. Use a candy thermometer; do not boil. The syrup is ready to use over waffles, pancakes, hot biscuits, ice cream and other desserts. Syrup will keep up to six months in the refrigerator without sugaring. For long-term storage: Sterilize pint or half-pint canning jars and prepare lids. Immediately pour hot syrup into hot canning jars, leaving 1⁄4 inch head- space. Wipe jar rims and add prepared two-piece lids. Process five minutes in a boiling water canner. (See below for steps in using a boiling water canner.) Yield: 2 cups

Other recipies

Wild Alaska Blueberry and Raspberry Bars: This recipe comes from Alaska Dispatch food columnist Kirsten Dixon, an award-winning chef who has cooked and lived the past 30 years in the backcountry of Alaska. To learn more about her, visit www.kirstendixon.com.

6 cups mixed wild blueberries and raspberries
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Rind of one lemon
Pinch of salt

1. Combine all the ingredients in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. I don’t usually need to mash up small wild berries, but if you are using commercial berries (frozen is fine), you might need to mash the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon into a spreadable consistency.

This is our everyday jam recipe that you can use to make fresh jam for the breakfast table. You can add spices, oranges, vanilla paste, or other favorite flavors if you prefer. Some people add pectin into their jam to make a jelled consistency. I typically don’t do this but if you prefer it, just add in the recommended amount of pectin depending on brand you are using. The cooking time will decrease slightly.

Makes about 6 cups of blueberry jam.

Making cookie dough for blueberry bars:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (we substituted ½ cup whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Grease two standard baking sheets.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled melted butter and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (If you have a flour sifter, it is always great to use it for this recipe so the baking soda and baking powder are well combined).

4. Combine the butter and sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir the combined mixture until it all comes together. At this point, you might have to continue to knead the batter with your hands until it forms a ball.

5. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about an hour. Remove the dough.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into two equal parts.

7. On a lightly floured surface, roll one of the balls of dough into a 12-inch by 12-inch square. Trim the square into three long strips. Move the strips onto the prepared baking sheet.

8. Spread some of the jam down the middle of each strip of dough. Fold one edge of the dough to cover the jam. Fold over the other side. This will create a seam down the middle and form a log shape.  Lightly press to seal the seam. Carefully flip the log over so the seam is on the underside (use a wide spatula to help with this).  Repeat this process with the additional strip of dough and with the additional ball of dough. You will need two baking sheets to hold six logs.

9. Bake the logs in the center rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown. When the logs are cooled, cut them into 1 1/2-inch individual bars.

Makes 36 blueberry bars

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Alaska Blackcurrant Brownies: This recipe comes from Alaska Dispatch food columnist Kirsten Dixon, an award-winning chef who has cooked and lived the past 30 years in the backcountry of Alaska. To learn more about her, visit www.kirstendixon.com.

7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh blackcurrants
1 tablespoon crème de cassis

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the chocolate and the butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the mixture is melted and smooth.

Place the brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder into a bowl and mix. Mix in the eggs. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture and combine. Pour the batter into a buttered 9-inch-by-9-inch square cake pan. Sprinkle the blackcurrants over the top of the batter and drizzle with the crème de cassis. Bake for 50 minutes.  Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting out into 2-inch brownies (we always trim away the crusty edges first).

Makes 12 brownies.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com