The Cook’s quest for the perfect alligator sandwich has concluded in success. They are still being made the way they have been for the past known 100 years and do in fact use alligator meat. The Cook was assured that the alligator used to make this sarnie was of legal procurement. Since the Cook did not encounter any remnants of license plates, auto parts, fishing rods, golf paraphernalia, poodle collars, or any other human remains, common to wild alligators, when consuming this sandwich in great delight, it leads the Cook to believe this assurance. (Farm-raised) The alligator’s resurgence in the tropics is significant, in spite of the continued over-development and recent droughts in the swamps and forests of this region. The gator is one tough and resilient creature. However, the Cook has guarded optimism and does not want to encourage any exploitation of these beautiful creatures, especially in the name of culinary experience.
Repeated requests by the Cook for the recipe was met with heavy résistance. No doubt a family secret that was not to be shared and especially not to an outsider. But after devouring six of these local treasures and squelching the belly fire with numerous shots of swamp juice, Maynard scribbled out a close approximation to the actual thing. Good news for the Cook, but bad news for you the reader because the Cook is also not going to share the secret. Eat local, be local! A promise the Cook made to assure an exit strategy out of the swamps.
Grilled Dolphin, (no…not the Flipper mammal species, a tropic fish species), blackened Cobia, jerk laced hush puppies, sweet potatoes the size of small watermelons cut into baked crisp frites, mangos, papayas, and coconut…. oh the Cook is thinking of becoming a lost soul and just vanishing into the jungle to eat, fish, meditate, and read into the pink and grey tropic sunsets. Regrettably, the reality of the Cook’s Armani and Zegna suits and Chef’s coat world continues to come into force and the Cook is faced with returning to this ever accelerating pace of life. The Cook is sure that he will return to the jungles once again to become that lost soul; and in a sooner rather than later future.
Flying back to the Northern latitudes, the Cook was engaged in discussion concerning the flavor of the southern cultivar of blueberries as compared to that of their cousins in the north. One berry lead to another till all conversationalists were ready to consume numerous whole berry pies upon landing. Who out there does not like berries of one variety or another, and there are a bunch of varieties both wild and cultivated. Some literature claims that the wild growing varieties are more flavorful and contain greater percentages of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than do the cultivars. The Cook only knows from personal experience that the wild berries do have strong flavors but tend to be smaller, less juicy, and a bit seedier. The Cook loves them all.
Let’s just talk about a few of the berries more common to the North American and Northern European regions. Many of the common culinary berries have some degree of relationship to each other. This is especially true of the raspberry/blackberry (Rubus genus) families, aka. brambleberries. Raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, Marion berries, and dewberries all are related but each have their own distinctive flavor and texture. Raspberries are the most common commercially produced berries. They can be red, black, or yellow in color. The flavor of the black raspberry is more pronounced than that of the red or yellow cultivars, but each variety will retain the distinctive flavor of their respective species. Black raspberries are native only to North America and are found most abundantly in the east and also northwest. They are not considered a major commercial crop as compared to either the red raspberries or blackberries.
Russia is the largest producer of raspberries in the world with Serbia a very close second. Most berries are processed with perhaps 10% of the production being sold as fresh produce. Most of the processed berries are used in preserve, jam, and syrup production. Raspberries contain large amounts of antioxidants and are rich in vitamin C. The leaves of the raspberry plants can be dried and used for herbal teas.
Blackberries differ from raspberries in terms of fruit characteristics. All are aggregate fruits (formed by the bunching of several smaller fruits called drupelets) where the drupelets of the blackberries stay attached to the fibrous central cores of the fruit when picked. When the raspberries are picked, the fruit separates from this core.
Now, what about the Marion berries, the loganberries, and boysenberries; can they be used interchangeably in recipes? Yes they can because they are all related by cross propagation, if that is the right botanical term. Marion berries, the most common of blackberry cultivars is a cross blending between the blackberry and raspberry. They were cultivated in Marion County, Oregon, USA, hence the name. The fruit is dark purple with a glossy skin, and yields a full sweet flavor with just a touch of tart finish. Perfect for that pie the Cook is hungering for. Logan berries are also a similar cross of berries but yet yields a distinctive difference in flavor.
The boysenberry is a cross between the blackberry, raspberry, and the loganberry. It is native to Northern California, USA, where it was originally propagated by Rudoplh Boysen. After Boysen’s death, Walter Knott (Knott’s Berry Farm) transplanted some of the surviving root stock to his Southern California farm and became the first commercially viable producer of the fruit. Boysenberries are rich in flavor, slightly tart, and are a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Now for a Rubus that is a bit different; the cloudberry. Cloudberries are native to the northern hemisphere, i.e., Scandinavia. They have a very strong, earthy, musky flavor very different from other berries in the blackberry or raspberry family from which they come from. The cloudberry is a very significant fruit in Scandinavian culinary fare, as it is used in sauces for service with meats, bakery items, preserves, syrups, and even wines. It is said to be a difficult fruit to propagate, and as a result, current demand far exceeds production. The price for cloudberry products is high.
There are many more berries to talk about. The currants, the blueberries, and huckleberries, what is the difference between those two anyway?
The Cook cannot go on! Next time, maybe the Cook will give you some insight into those berries but right now, the Cook has to go and make a berry galette. Fresh out of the oven with a hearty dollop of French Vanilla ice cream…oh man!
Thanks for reading and see ya again.
The Cupboard Cook
Berry Galette Yield: One 10-inch galette
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into pieces
1/3 cup ice water
3 tablespoons of plain or vanilla yogurt (or sour cream)
Stir the yogurt into the water and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and sugar together, then cut the butter in using a fork or pastry blender until a fine crumb is made.
Add the water/yogurt mix, one tablespoon at a time, while tossing with a fork or your hands. Just bring the dough together, do not overwork the dough. Form a ball then place in a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten out to form a disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours but it can be done a day in advance.
You can use any berries desired but it is best to use what is in season for best flavor. Frozen and thawed berries will work but you will want to drain off a bit of the liquid.
2 cups fresh berries of choice. (or the equivalent in sliced fruit)
1-1/2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of honey mixed with a touch of water for a glaze
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
¼ cup cumble topping (optional but gives an added crunch)
Position oven rack to lower 1/3 position and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Roll the dough out to a 12 inch circle by 1/8 inch thick. It does not have to be perfect as the galette is considered a country kitchen pastry. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet that has been lined with a buttered piece of parchment paper.
Spread the berry filing out onto the dough leaving a two inch clean border. Fold the loose dough up and over the filling, creating folds as you go. You may have to pinch the folds together. The middle of the galette will be open. If you desire, you can sprinkle a crumble topping over the open berries or drizzle some of the honey into the fruit. Put the tablespoon of butter into the middle, and brush the crust with the honey mix.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to a baking rack and cool on the sheet for 10 minutes. Slip the pastry on to a service platter using a wide, thin spatula if needed to free it from the parchment.
The galette is best eaten the day it is made. Hard to beat when served with vanilla ice cream.