Cloudberry Country

In northern latitudes where they grow, cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus) are prized as a delicacy. 

Sept 1, Point Hope, Alaska: It has rained for at least part of each day ever since we came back to Point Hope on August 11 – twenty-two consecutive days. Yesterday, the sun finally broke free, and after an energizing breakfast of French toast, smoked salmon, honeydew mellon, orange juice and coffee, we borrowed one of the school’s vehicles and four of us drove out Seven-mile road (which is actually only five miles) to pick some of the last of this year’s aqpik – the Inupiat word for cloudberries.

Cloudberries like wet tundra, but can also be found in meadows. The boggy fields near Point Hope necessitate Muck Boots or similar footwear. 

We’re glad we don’t have to choose a favorite fruit, but a good way to think of fruit is in terms of where they are best served. If I could have a freshly-picked, perfectly juicy, slightly tart ruby red grapefruit every morning for breakfast, I’d seldom want any other fruit with my morning meal. Peaches shine when grilled to caramelize some of their sugar and served with mascarpone cheese or goat cheese. And I occasionally have dreams about the elderberry pies my grandmother used to bake for me made from the dark purple fruit I picked near my boyhood home in Pennsylvania.

Snowy owls, ground squirrels, foxes, caribou and occasionally brown bears are visitors and residents of the tundra where, in addition to cloudberries, stunted willows grows. 

Soft, juicy, and slightly creamy, cloudberries make a sorbet that is sublime, and they are excellent in ice cream as well. They are delicious as freezer jam, and this year we made syrup from the juice of some of the berries. Recently Barbra made a delicious cloudberry bread which was perfect with our peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Cloudberry liqueur is popular, and apparently there is a Canadian-brewed beer that features them.

The last of the cloudberries signal the end of summer here in Point Hope. The salmon and char are nearing the ends of their runs, and we’ve already had a little sleet. 

Click on the links below for additional cloudberry recipes, and stay tuned for recipes on cloudberry syrup and spicy cloudberry chipotle sauce for poultry, pork and fish.

Cloudberry Freezer Jam                                                               Cloudberry Sorbet

Cloudberry Upside-Down Cake                                                  Cloudberry Syrup