When you look at the picture below, then these muffins look a lot like blueberry/bilberry/bog bilberry muffins, don't they? But nope, the berries that lend those dark speckles are not of the Vaccinium genus at all, but Black Chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa), belonging to the Rosaceae family. It's a popular hedge plant here in Estonia, and because my aunt Vaike has a whole garden hedged off with chokeberry shrubs, a whole basket of ripe black chokeberries landed on my doorstep recently.
Chokeberries?? Never heard of them? What about Aronie à fruits noirs/Aronie noire in French, Schwarze Apfelbeere/Schwarze Eberesche in German, marja-aronia in Finnish, svart aronia in Swedish?? Well, chokeberries, which look a bit like rowanberries (only purplish-black), are considered functional food or nutraceuticals because of its high anthocyanin content. Those very anthocyanins contribute towards the astringency of the black chokeberries, but also gives them 'extraordinary antioxidant strength'. According to Wikipedia,
'a test tube measurement of antioxidant strength, the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC, has demonstrated chokeberry with one of the highest values yet recorded, of 16,100 micromoles of Trolox Eq. per 100 g- [Also the] total anthocyanin content in chokeberries is 1480 mg per 100 g of fresh berries, and proanthocyanidin concentration is 664 mg per 100 g. (Wu et al. 2004)'
(Whatever that means, it sounds impressive. All you need to know is that black chokeberries are incredibly good for you:)
Apart from all those impressive-sounding characteristics, black chokeberries have their place in the kitchen as well. They can be used to make jam (on their own or mixed with apples), astringent juice, and wine. As long as I can remember, my mum & auntie Vaike have made black chokeberry cordial (arooniasiirup) that we dilute with water during the year to make a refreshing drink. And I'll be making this cordial from some of the berries soon. But as I haven't baked for a few days, I decided to make black chokeberry muffins, using a Finnish Marttajärjesto recipe I had bookmarked ages ago. Yes, the dark berries in the muffins are a bit astringent, but they were juicy and delicious, just like superberries are supposed to be :)
Makes 12 'European' sized ones
125 grams butter, at room temperature
100 grams caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
350 ml plain/all purpose flour
100 ml milk
150 grams cleaned black chokeberries
Cream butter with sugar, add eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Mix flour, vanilla sugar and baking powder, then add to the egg mixture together with the milk, stirring just as much as needed to combine the ingredients.
Fold in the chokeberries.
Divide into 12 prepared muffin cases and bake at 200 C for 15-20 minutes.
WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Susan of Well Seasoned Cook. Click on the logo below for more information about this foodblogging event started by Kalyn, or here to read Susan's wonderful round-up!