Given that we attempted a little too much when we picked and canned blueberries, we restricted the scope a bit when we picked and canned black raspberries. A number of details made our raspberry day a little better than our blueberry day. You know, stuff like not attempting to make more than one pastry.
We set out to make a sugar-free jam, a regular jam, 4 quarts of pie filling, and one pie. Aside from making only one baked good, We’ve made all of the recipes aside from the sugar-free jam before. Plus, with our first clear jel adventure behind us, we were prepared for it’s oddities.
I picked Ali up at 7. We arrived at the farm around 8:20. Picking and sourcing local produce it a bit of an adventure. The process is something like this. You drive out to a isolated location. Then you approach an unfamiliar and often poorly marked building that most likely looks like a stereotypical old farm house. Then you knock and hope that Google maps has directed you to the correct and precise location. The person that greets you, and by greet I mean a spectrum anywhere between a barely intelligible grunt to a very warm long-lost family-member greeting, might give you directions that are easily understandable or nonsense. The point is you don’t know what you’re in for. To our delight Dale Stokes Berry farm has a sign out front. We crossed the first hurdle, which is not encountering a man with a shotgun accusing us of trespassing.
The gravel driveway seemed exceptionally long, but eventually we spied a small white hut. Investigation of the hut revealed a tween girl inside who confirmed that we were in the right place. She gave us pallets and instructed that we continue on the gravel path to porta-lets. You recall the point that I made about bizarre directions earlier? Yes. After turning a corner, porta-lets were in sight. I parked behind the porta-lets to avoid blocking the gravel path. A boy on a tractor confirmed we were in the right spot and instructed that we walk down a row until we see the girl. At this point, you might think that we are being lead to our deaths in sacrifice to the god of The Children of the Corn. But tucked up against a black raspberry bush was a young woman. She then instructed us to go further down another row to the stake with a plastic tie. Once there, we were to pick as we wished.
We arrived at the plastic tie. After walking down their rows of black raspberry bushes, it was clear that they had extremely well-kept fields. The raspberry bushes were excellently trimmed and pruned. The abundance of berries, seems to indicate that they are meticulous with their care. And the berries. The berries tasted incredible.
My grandma had wild black and red raspberry bushes in the back corner of her property. High summer was my favorite time to visit grandma. I would scamper off before dinner, spoiling it completely, by eating as many black and red raspberries that I could stuff in my face before I was called to dinner. I thought I was being sneaky about it, but I must have been covered with berry juice and scratches due to the abundance of thorns on the bushes. It was a mystery to my five-year-old self how the first words out of my mother’s mouth at seeing me were, “You were eating raspberries, huh?”
Standing there in the patch entering a zen place while picking and eating raspberries, it makes me feel close to that five-year-old. It bubbled up from my memory, that the best way to pick black raspberries was to have gentle fingers. This both protects from impaling a digit on a wayward thorn, and feeling the berries dropping away from the plant ensures that you are taking the ripe fruit. It was a clear, sunny day. I was lost in my physical experience of picking berries. It was wonderful.
We were done picking by 1030. This enabled us to have a solid brunch before we went on to can and clear the berries. Eating lunch. That’s one of the improvements we made over our blueberry marathon. Upon returning home, we set about making the Sure Jell recipe for black raspberry jam. We also set about making this recipe for sugar-free jam. The jams went off without a hitch. We canned them in a standard water bath and moved on to pie filling.
We followed the same clear jel process that we documented in our blueberry blog. The only difference in the recipe is that we put in a quarter teaspoon of Siagon cinnamon. Note that Siagon cinnamon is a little more savory tasting than the cinnamon you would typically find in a grocery store. The only difference in the process was that we didn’t blanch the fruit. That resulted in a slightly longer processing time.
Finally, I made the pie. I used the vegan pie crust recipe with my own home made vegan butter. These recipes can also be found in my blueberry blog. There are many things I could say about this pie. I will leave it at this; that pie was my “Mona Lisa” of pies. I pulled out one of our canned quarts, and made a black raspberry pie for my family reunion last week. My dad said that it was just as good as my grandma’s, which is basically the highest praise my father can give regarding pies, given that grandma made thousands of pies over her lifetime. Practice makes perfect. I can verify that this much is true about pies.
What did I learn? First, I will return to that farm to pick every year. Second, I will be canning more black raspberry pie filling next year. Third, black raspberries are the most magical fruit on the face of this earth.