One of the challenges of being a good cook is coming up with new ideas and exciting ways to prepare ingredients. Some cooks simply heat and serve products that have been processed and sold ready-to-eat. Many cooks prepare foods from factory-farmed meat, fish, poultry, and produce. The challenge then becomes how to create a new and exciting way to prepare a chicken breast with broccoli and potatoes. After all, there are 20 places in your area that prepare chicken and broccoli with potatoes.
But the magical quality of foraged ingredients is that they practically tell you how to prepare them! I know it sounds a little metaphysical, but let me try to explain. When I buy produce in the store I am typically uninspired by the product itself. Most of the time, I am going to the store with a recipe in mind. So in order to execute my recipe I need to plug in the essential ingredients. After foraging or happening upon an apple tree or a patch of nettles, I take these items home, clean and taste them, and along the way tap so many of my senses and even emotions that a method of preparation seems to come naturally.
By last night, when these chokeberries were harvested, I had grown even more excited to learn about them and how they taste. I first spotted them a couple of days ago, took pictures of them yesterday morning, and had them identified yesterday afternoon; I had researched them, learned about traditional ways of preparing them, and was determined to do something with them when I got home from work. I always try to taste a new discovery in its raw form to get a true idea of what its real, unadulterated flavor is like. At first bite the berry was very astringent and sour, which told me that it would have to be heavily sweetened. As the astringency went away and the juice interacted with various parts of my palate, I picked up a whole array of fruity nuances.
The berries spoke to me and led me to believe that a syrup would be a simple and quick way of transporting it from raw to cooked with only the addition of water and sugar. In a couple of hours I had a deep-red, complex fruit syrup that is screaming to be poured over some buckwheat pancakes.
Recipe to follow!