Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Collecting the fruits of summer

I confess, I'm a fruit hoarder.
All summer long, my mind is constantly thinking about how I can get more fruit to stock my freezer and fill my canning jars. If you live in the Northeast and you depend on what grows locally, you have to think about winter during the summer.
Thinking ahead applies to vegetables, too, but the sweetness of fruit makes its gathering and preserving much more exciting to me. Tasting summer's berries in January, is not quite like feeling the sun that was shining the day they were picked, but in the dead of winter, it might be all I've got.

Raspberries are especially adventurous and precious.

They come later in the season, and by that time, no matter how many pints of strawberries and blueberries I have stored, I'm still certain I need more berries. Raspberries are my final hope.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to pick from the farm's berry patch this week.
I'm also thankful that the awesome crew maintains the plants in neat rows. But, no matter how well maintained the shrubs are, these berries aren't much fun to pick. You've probably encountered raspberry brambles at some point in your life -- they are full of “prickers.”

The bees don't mind the “prickers” at all as they busily pollinate. They are joined by beetles, flies and other bugs of all sizes and types. My four-year-old helper calls the bugs his friends, but I'm not a huge fan.
Determined to fill my baskets, I put the scratchy brambles and insects out of my mind and pick. It takes time to pick raspberries. Some of the ripest berries fall apart in my fingers, and occasionally drop where they'll never be found. But, I persevere, and after two hours, I have three quarts of berries.
Three quarts of amazingly, delicious raspberries! I will have jam, vinaigrette and smoothies! Every ounce of effort was worth it.
And, despite my hoarding tendencies, I might even give raspberry goodies for gifts, and share a taste of summer in the midst of winter.

Raspberry Vinegar
If you want to make raspberry vinaigrette, you first need raspberry vinegar.
  • 2 cups crushed raspberries
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
Place the berries in a one-quart mason jar, then fill the jar with the vinegar. Let sit for two days to two weeks.
Drain the fruit through muslin or cheesecloth, and let sit for a while – a couple of hours if you have the time. Pour the liquid into a non-reactive sauce pan, and stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Skim off any foam. Pour into sterilized bottles and store in a cool dark place. Will store for up to a year.
Serving suggestions: Mix the vinegar with olive oil and black pepper to make a vinaigrette, pour it over ice cream, or pour it over ice and add seltzer.

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