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Ingredient Focus : Lingonberries

By Marcus Samuelsson | June 1, 2012

Photo: Visit Sørlandet

If there’s one thing us Swedes are known for, it’s our lingonberries. Lingonberries to us are like blueberries to Americans; we use it in desserts, drink it as juice and spread it as preserves on almost anything we can get our hands on. I remember first trying lingonberries at my grandmother’s house in Sweden and falling in love with their tart yet sweet flavor.

These small, red distant cousin of cranberries are perhaps one of the most important forest berries found in Scandinavia. The leaves are much darker than most with a waxy texture which grows red, tart and juicy lingonberries. We consider lingonberries invaluable because they could be preserved for months by simply being placed in a jar with water. The fact that the natural preservatives in the berries could stay sustainable for days, weeks and even months is proof of the benefits they can also add to our health.

Lingonberries are often called the “Queen of Berries” because of their high antioxidant content, rich source of fibers, minerals and vitamins A and C. The fiber from these berries, similar to blueberries, keep you fuller for a longer period of time and the antioxidants and minerals improve digestion and tone up your body and muscles.

While fresh growers of lingonberries are scarce, often found in Washington and Oregon, jars of fresh lingonberries are simple to find and imported lingonberries are always a good choice as well. At Red Rooster Harlem, we incorporate lingonberries into one of my signature dishes, Helga’s Meatballs. It’s a tribute to not only my grandmother Helga, but also to my first introduction to the lingonberry by her as well.

Lingonberries are fantastic ways to spice up any normal dish, whether it be sweet like a cheesecake or savory like a glaze or sauce. The tartness and juiciness of the lingonberry bodes well for a homemade jam or jelly, spread on toast for breakfast or used in place of cranberries to give a refreshing twist to a classic summer cocktail, like the Cosmopolitan. Check out a quick and simple recipe below.

Lingonberry Cosmopolitan Recipe

2 servings

Ingredients:
2 oz vodka, or Aquavit (to learn how to make your own Aquavit, click here)
2 oz lingonberry juice
1 oz triple sec
1 oz lime juice

Directions: 

1. Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass.

Photo: Visit Sørlandet

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