The raspberry, with its delicate texture, slightly acidulous taste and sumptuous flavor, is a fruit of both simplicity and elegance. From humble homemade pies, scones and jams to lavish tarts, creams, and custards, raspberries are the most versatile of all the bramble berries. They work equally well in a variety of savory dishes, as in a sauce over grilled pork chops or in a vinaigrette drizzled over mixed greens.
Members of the Rose family, raspberries, or Rubus genus, are indigenous to Asia Minor and North America. The origin of the word raspberry is uncertain. One possibility is that it stems from raspise, a sweet rose-colored wine. Each berry is actually a cluster of individual sections (called drupelets) surrounding a central core. When picked, the core remains on the vine giving the berries their hollow center. The small hair-like follicles that grow between the drupelets are called styles and are part of their defense mechanism. They do not affect the taste.
During the summer months, they can be found throughout the U.S., but most are grown in the Pacific Northwest due to the berry’s need for a cooler damp environment. They are expensive to produce and have a short shelf life, which makes them a very high-value crop. Poland is the single largest producer.
There are primarily three types of raspberries grown and sold in the U.S.; red, black, and gold.
|Red raspberries are the most popular variety, perhaps because of their seductive scarlet color. Their taste varies from slightly acidic to sweet. They are generally available year round thanks to commercial production in Washington, Oregon, and California, but their natural peak season occurs June through August.|
|Black raspberries are native to North American and are often confused with blackberries. They typically have a deep purple/black pigment and are smaller, more tart, and have a more intense berry flavor than red varieties. Once ripened, they have a very short shelf life. They are used most commonly in sweet preparations, desserts, and baked goods. Their acidic nature makes them ideal for preserving and canning.|
|Golden raspberries are a relatively new and far less common variety. They are found primarily at farmers markets and purveyors of specialty produce. They not only lack the darker pigmentation of their colorful cousins but also have a unique flavor profile that author Aliza Green describes as “luscious” and “reminiscent of softly perfumed apricots”.|
Buying & Storing
When buying, look for fruits that are intense in color and plump. The ideal berry will have a soft, hazy “gloss” to it. Check the container for any stains, a sure sign of over ripened berries. Avoid any signs of mold.
Raspberries are extremely delicate and perishable and are prone to spoiling without the proper care and attention. Keep them cool and, most importantly, dry. Do not wash them until just before preparing or serving. Moisture will quicken the decay of the berry. Typically, raspberries keep one to two days in the fridge.
If buying berries out of season, frozen raspberries are an excellent alternative. The fruits are picked in the field when ripe and frozen right away.
Taste & Flavor Affinities
Raspberries, sweet and tart, pair well with a number of ingredients including almonds, lemons, vanilla, cream, crème fraîche, mint, sugar, chocolate (especially white), and peaches. Be cautious when pairing berries with extremely dark chocolates. Use only the ripest of berries. Some people find the bitterness from the chocolate and the tartness of the berries to be distasteful.
Preparing & Cooking
To prepare raspberries, gently rinse them under cold water, drain and spread them onto a paper towel to dry. Use raspberries as soon as possible, but if using the berries at a later date, freeze them on a cookie sheet then place them into a zip lock bag for long-term storage. Use the berries as soon as possible to avoid freezer damage.
Puree raspberries in a blender for delicious smoothies. Cook them in a sauce pan with a little sugar and a dash of lemon juice then strain the mixture to make a luscious sauce for ice creams and rich desserts. Use them in a variety of desserts, tarts, and pies. Combine with peaches, pears, or nectarines or serve with chocolate sauce and sweetened whipped cream.
Easy Morning Muffins with Raspberries by Cindy Mushet from The Art & Soul of Baking
Gluten-Free Raspberry Ice Box Pies Pies in a Jar from Dricoll’s
Raspberry Cream Scones from Kamran Siddiqi (The Sophisticated Gourmet)