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Food & Drink

Kim Sunee: Let the wild side of Alaska berries shine in this simple berry crumble

  • Author:
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published August 7, 2014

It's prime berry time, and whether you favor raspberries, wild blue or salmon, they are ripe and ready for the picking. Although it's difficult to get serious Alaska foragers to divulge a favorite berry-picking hot spot (and who could blame them?), if you look around, you'll find that the fruit is plentiful. This past weekend, in Portage, for example, my friends and I unexpectedly picked and ate berries all along the trail of blue ice. And my neighbors have just offered up their bushes for harvesting as well.

With an abundance of fruit this fresh, the last thing you want to do is spend too much time in the kitchen fussing over them, which reminds me of the Julia Child quote: "it's so beautifully arranged on the plate, you know someone's fingers have been all over it."

If you have any leftover berries from your harvest -- I can't help but eat most of them right off the bush -- let the wild side shine and toss them with a few ingredients, like citrus zest and juice, to brighten them up before baking the fruit into a pie or crumble.

Earlier this summer, I made rhubarb pie crumble, a lovely combination when you can't decide between the two confections. But for wild berries, I like to skip the crust and put together a quick topping of almonds, oats and brown sugar. Use a combination of your favorite berries and other fruit; sometimes I add peaches, nectarines or plums. And a bit of creme de cassis, a fragrant blackcurrant liqueur. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a swirl of chilled creme fraiche, which is similar to sour cream, but richer and less sour.

Wild berry crumble

For the topping:

1/2 cup ground almonds or Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
1/2 cup rolled oats (or oat bran)
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon (fine grain) salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
For the fruit:
24 ounces (about 4 cups) fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries or salmonberries
12 ounces (about 2 cups) fresh peaches or plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
Optional: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; 1/4 cup creme de cassis (reduce amount of sugar to 1/4 cup if using), fresh-chopped lemon verbena or mint leaves

For serving: vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the almond meal, oats, brown sugar and salt. Quickly cut butter into the almond mixture, using your fingers or two forks, until mixture resembles large crumbs. Chill mixture in refrigerator about 20 minutes.

2. Toss the fruit with the remaining ingredients in a (6-cup capacity) baking dish, until fruit is well-coated. Top evenly with chilled almond-oat mixture. Bake 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and the top is golden-brown. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, if desired.

More ways to enjoy berries:

1) Basic salmonberry vinaigrette from The Cascadian Kitchen

4) Gingered blueberry shortcake from Cooking Light

5) Berry simple syrups from Arctic Garden Studio

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