|My son Ben picking madroño berries in the Sierra Blanca. (Photo by Francisco Javier García González.)|
The madroños sat on the kitchen table for a few days before I decided to take up the challenge of creating a way to use them.
The madroño (Arbutus unedo) is a bush/small tree, sometimes called “strawberry tree” for the fruit’s resemblance to strawberries (in appearance only as it tastes absolutely nothing like strawberries), that grows all around the Mediterranean. It is related to, but not the same as, the madrona of the US Pacific Northwest (Arbutus menziesii).
|Ripe madroños are deep red and slightly soft. The unripe ones (yellow) are mouth-puckeringly astringent.|
|Cut open, the berry shows yellow-orange flesh.|
The whole fruit is edible, raw or cooked. Inside the red skins, the flesh is golden-orange. It is starchy, somewhat in the way that bananas and sweet potatoes are starchy; sweet, but insipid. Unripe fruit is distinctly astringent. The pulp of ripe berries is soft, but the texture is gritty, as if fine grains of sand had been mixed into the berries. Once cooked, the fruit was surprisingly tangy. Somewhat floury, it absorbed the cooking liquid and thickened nicely.
In the Spanish kitchen, madroños are most often used to make mermelada or to confect a liqueur, either by infusing the berries in spirits or by distilling their juice.
The madroño bush appears on the coat of arms of the city of Madrid. Since the 13th century it is pictured with a bear on its back legs, stretching towards the red berries on the tree. Both berries and bears were once native to the Madrid countryside, but no more.
The bear made me think of pork chops and the madroños suggested a fruity sauce to accompany them.
“Bear” Chops with Madroño Sauce
Chuletas de “Oso” con Salsa de Madroños
Chuletas de “Oso” con Salsa de Madroños
|Cooked, pureed and sieved, madroñó berries make a creamy sauce.|
|Madroño sauce goes well with pork chop--fruity and slightly tart.|
Not really bear meat, but thick-cut ibérico pork chops. Ibérico pork is exceptionally juicy. If not available, use regular pork. Regular pork may require added olive oil in browning; ibérico pork is best cooked in preheated skillet with no added fat.
I started out with one pound of madroño berries. I set aside some whole ones for garnish. After removing stems and discarding unripe and blemished fruit, I had about 12 ounces (2 cups) of berries.
Unless you are intrigued by a gritty sauce, I suggest sieving the sauce after pureeing it to remove all those teensy seeds.
I added no sweetening beyond orange juice to the sauce. If you like a sweet-sour sauce, add a little sugar to taste.
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped shallots
2 cups whole madroño berries
½ cup white wine
½ cup water
¼ cup orange juice
Strip of orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
A few uncooked madroño berries, to garnish
4 ibérico pork chops, each 1 ½ inches thick
Sprig of thyme
4 cloves garlic
For the sauce:
Heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the shallots until softened, 4 minutes. Do not let them brown.
Add the madroño berries, wine, water, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook the berries, covered, until they are softened, 20 minutes.
|Before sieving, tiny seeds in the sauce.|
Remove and discard the orange zest. Blend the fruit to a smooth puree. Press the puree through a fine sieve, discarding the seeds and pulp remaining in the sieve.
Return the puree to the saucepan. Add salt and pepper to taste and sugar, if desired. If sauce seems too thick, stir in a little water. Heat the sauce before serving. Serve the sauce with the pork chops and a garnish of a few madroño berries.
For the pork chops:
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Sprinkle chops with salt, pepper and thyme.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet until very hot. Place the chops in the skillet with the cloves of garlic and allow them to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and brown the reverse sides.
Place the skillet in the oven and roast the chops until they are just done, 5-10 minutes. Serve accompanied by the madroño sauce and garnished with a few whole berries.
More recipes for pork with fruity sauce: