Sunday, July 26, 2009

Raspberry Riches


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many, and such beautiful, raspberries as over these past few days. Both the stand itself and the counter of the sorting trailer at the fruit lady’s were a veritable showroom of raspberry perfection. Off to the side were the equally wonderful currants, including the last of the white ones; a few pints of big blueberries; and one pint of jostaberries, a flavorful black currant and gooseberry cross. But the raspberries dominated the scene.

Their abundance fits into the pipeline theory of supply and demand. The raspberries continued to ripen up over several non-picking days of rain, and by the time it cleared (temporarily; we are getting inches of rain as I write this) there were two or three times the usual daily amount to pick—I’d estimate a good 6 quarts in overflowing 1-cup containers were out when I stopped by late in the afternoon, and that is after the heavy morning buying. All too often in past summers you would arrive too late, or stand politely over the last cup with someone else, taking turns saying, “no, you take it,” or “no, you” (or, just as often, someone would come up behind you while you were getting your money out for the can and snatch that last cup with a determined, needy entitlement). So many raspberries in the pipeline means that farmstand graciousness prevails, everyone gets their share, and we can pop an entire container in our mouths on the way home and still have plenty for baking. We are truly long in raspberries in today’s market.

I will confess, though, that raspberries are not my favorite for baking. Of course they are very good. But their flavor is sweetest and raspberry-truest when fresh, so for the most part I eat them out of hand, and I think most people do too. Subjected to heat, they become a bit sour, although nicely juicy, and a bit overpowering. Compensate with a little more than usual sugar, and use them for plain things that you don’t want too sweet anyway, such as sour-milk pancakes, muffins, or buckles—or go the other extreme and use in them in a sorbet, which has a high proportion of sugar. Also on the high-sugar side, raspberry jam is always nice, and there are enough now that you could easily do that; be very careful not to overcook it to preserve the flavor. And of course, there are also plenty available for freezing for the dead of winter, which I recommend. Spread them out on a cookie sheet, place in your freezer for a few hours, then seal in quart plastic bags.


Raspberry Cardamom Muffins

This is a standard muffin recipe. Makes 12.

2 cups pastry or a-p flour
½ cup sugar
½ tea cardamom
½ tea salt
4 tea baking powder
1 cup whole milk
2 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T lard, melted
1 large egg
1 cup, generous, raspberries


2 T sugar
½ tea cardamom

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside.

Sift dry ingredients and stir together. Lightly combine milk, egg, and fats, and stir in, folding the mixture over, until just combined. Fold in the berries. Distribute the batter in the muffin tin and, if desired, sprinkle with a little cardamom-sugar. Bake for about 20 minutes; let cool in pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a rack.                                  

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