Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grown-up Berries From Newfoundland

There was a nice article on bakeapples in today's Globe and Mail. No, not those pastry covered baked apples, I mean the orange-red berries over there that look like raspberries.

I will confess that as a child -- yes even as a younger man -- I was not particularly fond of bakeapples. Their taste is not the sweet, fresh taste usually associated by children with berries but is instead a unique, almost indescribable taste -- sweet but tinged with a smoky, sour flavour that goes down best on an older palate that is past the youthful craving for pure sweetness.

While even now I have usually had bakeapples on desserts, I think some of its best moments could come in sauces, chutneys or other flavourings for meats. Chefs ... gets those ideas flowing.

By the way, despite the suggestion at the end of the article, skip the bog and go straight to Bidgoods or the side of the road purveyor who has already put up with the marsh and the flies.

Cherished berries from the Rock

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

August 22, 2007 at 9:23 AM EDT

ST. JOHN'S — You see them in the height of summer: berry pickers, stooped in boggy areas along the roadways, plucking fruit from the low-lying plants dotting the windswept fen.

Like hunting, fishing and general subsistence gathering, heading off to the "berry ground" is an annual tradition in Newfoundland. The rare bakeapple, or cloudberry, is the prize - the most cherished among the province's wild berry bounty.

For those who don't want to break their backs in mosquito-infested marshes, there are always roadside vendors.

We spied our first jars of berries - they're typically sold by pickers in quart sealers, bobbing in cold water - displayed on the hood of an aging half-ton truck near Bay Roberts, west of St. John's.

It's hard to say what the hard little electric-orange berries have to do with clouds - perhaps it's the multisectioned, scalloped shape. As for their other name, according to a 1958 cookbook, The Treasury of Newfoundland Dishes, one early French explorer asked "what is this berry called?" - "baie qu'appelle?" - and the name, phonetically rendered, stuck.

Another early reference describes them as "bake apples - baygapple - warted red berries ripening late in the summer on low-growing plants."

What's clear is that these berries are dear - $10 for the few cups suspended in jars for sale by the road. But considering each of the small plants only produces a single golden fruit, it's a bargain.

Like wild partridgeberries (or lingonberries), bakeapples only grow in northern, subarctic climates, preferring moist tundra and peat bogs - you may find them in a fresh market in Norway or Sweden. In Canada, they're found mainly in pockets of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The wild fruit have an exotic sweet and tart flavour, reminiscent of apricots and honey. In Newfoundland, you'll find them baked into tarts, in sauces spooned over cheesecake, and smeared as jam.

At trendy restaurants such as Bianca's or Restaurant 21 in St. John's, they may appear in a compound butter with the bread basket, or in a creative chutney for pan-roasted cod.

The Dark Tickle Company bottles bakeapple dessert sauces and bakeapple-infused maple syrup, and even makes bakeapple tea and chocolates that are sold throughout the province and online. At Rodrigues Winery near St. John's, Hilary Rodrigues turns cloudberries into wine.

Some cook bakeapples with sugar and dump the seedy sauce over ice cream or desserts, like the creamy cheesecake served at O'Brien's in Bay Bulls. Oddly, they never seem to be baked with actual apples.

At Bidgood's supermarket in St. John's, frozen berries can be found next to frozen cod tongues and bottled moose nose.

Or just do as they do in Newfoundland: Pack a mug-up of bread and tea, and spend a day in the bogs and barrens.

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