DIY: From Farm to Dessert
It’s still summer (despite the weather some days), and the markets have been overflowing with berries of all kinds, nectarines and peaches, fragrant melons and sweet cherries. The first plums have already grabbed my attention, the small greengage variety from France, called Reine Claude are fabulous. I never seem to buy enough at the market. Nor can I ever get too many punnets of raspberries, my favorite fruit. I may have come close though when I brought home a kilo of them (as well as a kilo each of blackberries and blueberries), each and every one picked from their stems by Olivier and myself.
I have fun memories of picking blackberries on the North Fork of Long Island in New York and always wanted to do that again here in Switzerland. Strawberry season was sadly already behind us, but thankfully raspberries were still continuing to ripen. (Apparently the end of August is the best time to go picking.) Blackberries were at their very sweetest. And to our surprise, blueberries were in abundance, even if not quite ripe yet; we made sure to grab the bluest of the bunch.
With a sunny day to take advantage of, we hopped on bikes (free rental in Zürich during the summer) and made our way to Riedenholzhof (about 40 minutes on bikes from the main train station). From city streets, tram stops and Migros supermarkets, all of a sudden we were passing vast fields of bright green grass with nothing but grazing cows in either direction. Riedenholzhof farm had perfectly straight rows of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, and a simple rule: pick as much as you want, any mix of berries, for CHF 8 a kilo.
The vines weren’t completely full, but we had more than plenty to fill our baskets. And it gave us a fun challenge of searching out bright red raspberries that would easily detach from the stem; otherwise we left them to continue ripening. Just be careful of bees and thorns, both prevalent. I wouldn’t recommend using their one-kilo plastic containers, as any berries on the bottom will simply get crushed from the weight above. It’s probably best to use several small tupperware containers, as we saw other locals arriving with.
But I can also tell you that crushed berries taste just as good as jam and in crumbles. After eating more berries than we ever thought imaginable, sharing some with friends and playing around with tons of combinations of fruit crumbles, it was clear that jam was the solution for the rest. After painstakingly going through the remaining smushed berries for leaves, stems, bugs and who knows what else, it was time to cook them down to jam. I used raspberries and blackberries, with a touch of lemon juice, cooked with sugar until bright and thick. The jam is great on toast with salted butter and swirled into thick yogurt.
But back to those crumbles… I am a big fan of “make your own” when it comes to dessert for a dinner party. I often show up at friends’ homes armed with trays of goodies, especially the components for “make your own ice cream sundae.” It’s so fun to bring different flavors of ice cream and toppings of all sorts (sprinkles, crushed pretzels, home baked chocolate chip cookies, chocolate syrup or caramel sauce…). You may have read about my favorite ice cream cereal sundae concoctions as a kid, so this should come as no surprise. Everyone loves to pick and choose and create a personalized dessert. So I did this with crumbles too, and it is sure to be another regular on the dessert circuit here.
Make your own crumble ! Different colored ramekins, so that everyone knows which is theirs when it’s time to serve. Bowls of prepared fruit, and this can be just about anything: sliced nectarines, berries, chopped banana, etc. I gave two choices of topping, using different combinations of oats, nuts, cornmeal, dates and brown sugar. And just think, you can add as much extra topping as you want! Invite your guests to select their fruit and topping and into the oven they go. As you are eating the main course, they will be bubbling away in the oven. And when you’re done, the crumbles will be ready, just calling out to be topped with a scoop of ice cream*, and everyone ready to taste and compare.
What would be your ideal crumble combination ?
Küchler Family Farm, Riedenholzhof
Thursday & Friday: 1:30pm to 6:30pm
Saturday: 9am to 2pm
* Riedenholzhof also has a little shop where you can buy the farm’s produce, cider… and ice cream ! They make the ice cream there using berries from the fields, as well as in chocolate and coffee flavors.