Recipe Corner Cooking Techniques

Handle Raspberries with Care: They're Worth the Effort

RaspberriesWhen I lived in Central New Mexico, every year in the late summer/early autumn, I'd join a foodie friend, Anne Marie, and her kiddos on a roadtrip to Mora, New Mexico to pick fresh raspberries at a farm in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. For a flat price, we'd pick as much as we'd like, including the occasional snack or two straight from the bush, and take our bounty home to be frozen for later.

The interior of Anne Marie's minivan would smell like a giant raspberry for days afterward, not that she minded in the least bit. Yet the fruity fragrance was misleading: From the lasting scent, you'd never guess how fragile raspberries can be.

It can be downright maddening to work with them. Because raspberries turn to mush at the slightest provocation, it's best to rinse them (very delicately) right before you use them. Anne Marie and I also learned to freeze the berries properly by spreading them in single layer on a cookie sheet, freezing them and then pouring the frozen berries into freezer bags, rather than attempting to place the raw berries in the baggies before freezing: Fewer mashed raspberries means less clean-up -- a lot less.

In the end, the extra care and tales of caution are worth it, particularly if you like to get your chocolate or dairy "fix" from time to time. Raspberries balance most chocolates, cheeses, custards, cheesecakes, ice cream and yogurt with a tangy sweetness that never becomes cloying, notably in raspberry-flavored liqueurs such as Chambord. The distinct flavor also complements leafy greens and nuts, producing the trifecta that is the spinach salad with almonds and raspberry vinaigrette. 

Fortunately, I no longer have to drive over hill and dale to find fresh raspberries, but I still give them the kid-glove treatment. They seem to like that magic touch.