This week, in Southwestern Ontario, has been that magical time of year when strawberries and raspberries overlap in their ripening. Last Tuesday, I finally got to pick black raspberries at our local berry farm.
Just to clarify: black raspberries are not to be confused with blackberries, which look similar but A) are not raspberries, B) are easily available in grocery stores and therefore less exciting, and C) are frankly not nearly as tasty.
When I was a kid, black raspberry time meant foraging into the woods near our house, sweaty in jeans and long sleeves (to prevent scratches), taking precarious steps further into the undergrowth, contorting and stretching in all kinds of awkward ways, in pursuit of that handful of gorgeous berries just out of reach. An intense picking session would end back at home with a baking-soda bath, because no matter how careful you were, the thorns were gonna getcha. But it was totally worth it. The dopamine hit, when you found the good ones, was better than a video game… Oh, and then there’s the EATING. Mmmmmm. They taste like pure, wild summer.
The trouble is, I don’t live around the corner from indigenous black raspberries anymore, at least not that I’ve come across. When I found out that our berry farm grows them, I was SO EXCITED. And I will admit that not having to entangle myself in the briars is nice, if not quite as action-packed.
I would have liked to go picking during Sebastian’s days, because ever since his first anniversary, when I happened to go berry-picking on his birthday, the two things are connected in my mind. Picking berries in the sunshine feels like the right thing to do. Like I’m near him. I can’t explain why. This year, they weren’t ripe on his birthday, but six days after is close enough. And as it happened, on that particular afternoon, I picked some in the sunshine and some in the rain.
That first year, we saw a cicada sitting peacefully and perfectly still on a raspberry plant. This year, it was a dragonfly.
My mom swears that the domesticated raspberries don’t taste as good as the wild ones. All I know is, when I eat one, Mini-Di pops up in my soul and says Yes. YUM.
If you find yourself picking black raspberries, make sure you look under the leaves, especially the lower ones. You’re likely to find the most beautiful berries there, in whole ripe clusters.
And on to the point of the blog post: our family’s favourite black raspberry recipe.
I should probably warn you – if you have a problem with little seeds, this fruit, and by extension this dessert, is not for you. Both are seedy par excellence. But if you can get past that (those seeds are actually really good for you), Black Raspberry Cobbler is summery heaven with a spoon.
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a 9 x 13 pan (or a 10 x 10, which is what I have) melt 1/4 – 1/3 C of butter or margarine.
3. In a bowl, mix 1 C flour (I use whole wheat – it’s robust and it fits – but it’s up to you), 3/4 C sugar (white or brown), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 C milk (dairy or not), and 1 (optional) egg.
4. Pour batter over melted butter. Don’t worry, it’ll spread itself out if you don’t get into all the corners.
5. In a bowl, mix 4 C black raspberries with 1/2 C sugar and 1/3 – 1/2 C water.
6. I also add a dash of lemon juice and a couple drops of almond extract to the berries.
7. Distribute the fruit mixture over the batter in the pan. It’ll look like a soupy mess, but don’t worry. (If you are brusque with the fruit, the juiciness will get underneath the batter, which actually produces quite a tasty berry-flavoured caramel, but a very hard-to-clean pan.)
8. Bake for 45 minutes.
9. Enjoy warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, table cream, milk of your choice – or just plain.
Voilà. A dessert I fervently looked forward to as a child, and still look forward to as an adult – maybe even more fervently.