How To Make The Most Of Berry Season

Ripe here, right now

Not to play favorites or anything, but berries are the best part of summer. What other food can be canned, cooked or baked so effortlessly, with leftovers practically begging to be sprinkled over ice cream?

It's true that they can be finicky, and their season is far too short, but considering there's no shortage of things both sweet and savory to make with berries, there's also no excuse not to use them. We, ahem, picked the brains of three berry-loving food and drink pros for advice on making the most of the season.

Cocktail: Fruit juice is nothing new, but it's more fun when there's rum involved. St. Joe's Bar in New Orleans whips up an excellent blueberry mojito, best enjoyed on the back porch under string lights and a cool breeze. Make it by muddling a small scoop of fresh blueberries with a few spearmint leaves and an ounce of simple syrup. Add a splash of lime juice, a generous shot of gold rum and top with club soda. The bigger and sweeter the blueberries the better, to enhance both the flavor and the cocktail's gorgeous violet hue.

Jam: Your kitchen doesn't have to be a perfectly sanitized production plant to make jam at home. Plus, it's a great way to use up berries that have the nerve to go mushy. Dafna Kory of INNA jam suggests simmering one pound of fruit with a half pound of sugar until everything is dissolved but you haven't lost any volume. This yields enough for two half-pint jars. "It's such a small amount that you won't need to can it," Kory says. "Just store it in the refrigerator, where it will get eaten fast." Check out our recipe for raspberry-rosé jam here.

Savory: You could spend all summer making berry jams and pastries and drinks, but at some point, you'll probably start craving salt. Levon Wallace, the chef at Proof on Main in Louisville, KY, tops his creamy corn soup with blueberries pickled in a sweet fruit vinegar-based brine (try apple cider vinegar at home). He also tops scallop crudo with strawberries preserved in salt and sugar, and roasts and purées strawberries with vinegar and mustard for a "totally addictive" condiment that's equally delicious on a roast pork sandwich or a cheese plate.