I must have been born with the hunter-gatherer gene. Every year as spring wanes and summer heats up, I fidget and fuss and just can’t stand to wait for berry season to begin. The berries shown above are the first black raspberries this season–a small quantity, but there are more on the canes.
Inevitably, I conduct several May pre-harvest inspections of the wild black raspberries in the woods and red raspberries in my yard. Finally, in mid-June, the black raspberries finally take on enough color to be picked. At which point I grab a bucket and am off foraging again! I’ve been picking raspberries since childhood, so it’s a ritual now.
The wild black raspberries I forage for today grow in several patches in open space behind my Maryland house. I’m happy to say that no one else in the neighborhood seems to have noticed them, so birds are my main competition! Note that the fully ripe berries in the pic are the same color but rounder in shape (and have a different flavor) than blackberries. The partly ripe fruits are red and still sour, and the completely “green” berries are yellow and hard. Only the fully ripe fruits are easy to pluck from the tiny white caps at the ends of the stems. (Look closely, at left, and you can see these where several berries were already picked.)
The red raspberries I pick are right in the corner of my yard, about 15 feet from my front door. As the photo shows, they’re just beginning to ripen, so I’ll be enjoying them on and off for three or four more weeks.
Actually, I’ve gathered raspberries every single June since toddlerhood except for four years when I lived in Germany. There I had to settle for harvesting wild blackberries that grew along the banks of the Main River (pronounced “Mine”) near my house each July. The slope was so steep and slippery I had to hang on to shrubs and tree stumps with my left hand as I picked with my right. At one point where there were no branches to cling to, I tied a rope around my waist and had my then middle-school aged son up on terra firma hold it taut so I wouldn’t slide into the river below. (I can only guess what my German neighbors thought of that!)
In case black raspberries are new to you, they have a wonderful, zingy taste that’s bolder than that of the familiar red varieties. I’ve seen cultivated black raspberries for sale in the Seattle and Portland areas, and in Pennsylvania Dutch country. But otherwise, they are hard to find except at an occasional roadside stand or farmers’ market. They are so flavorful, I’ve never understood why they aren’t more widely sold. Hopefully stories like this one will make that happen soon!
Just as I have since my mother taught me many decades ago, I made a simple cobbler with my first raspberry harvest of the season. I’ve baked hundreds of them over the years, and they’re always as extraordinary as I remember from the summer before.
Raspberry Cobbler with Easy Crumble Crust
Assuming you can’t forage for your berries, this homey, succulent cobbler is an indulgence, but it’s definitely worth the splurge. It calls for a combination of red and black raspberries, which, I promise you are even better paired up than each is served alone. Don’t worry if you can’t obtain black raspberries; blackberries or even blueberries make a perfectly acceptable substitute, though the flavor won’t be exactly the same. The recipe calls for adding a couple of more economical plums to round out the flavor and “stretch” the berries a bit.
This cobbler is easier to make than most because the topping requires no rolling out or shaping. Instead, it is prepared like a streusel, or crumb crust, and is simply crumbled over the fruit. The topping comes out slightly crisp and sweet, providing a pleasing contrast to the tartness of the filling. (For a cobbler recipe with a traditional biscuit crust, check out my blackberry cobbler or strawberry-rhubarb cobbler.)
Tip: Adjust the amount of sugar and lemon juice depending on the tartness of the berries and fruit.
2/3 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups red raspberries
2 cups black raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries
2 cups peeled, pitted (unpeeled) and chopped red or black plums
2 to 4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 2/3 cups all-purpose white flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Ice cream or whipped cream or plain heavy cream for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9-inch by 13-inch flat baking dish (or a similar size dish) with nonstick spray. For filling: Thoroughly stir together granulated sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Gently stir in berries, fruit and lemon juice until well blended. Spread mixture evenly in baking dish.
For dough: Thoroughly stir together flour, brown and granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add melted butter to bowl, stirring until incorporated. Add egg, stirring with a fork until mixture is blended and clumped. Sprinkle clumps of dough mixture evenly over fruit.
Bake in middle third of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until well browned and bubbly. Transfer to wire rack and let cool to barely warm or cooled before serving. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
Makes about 10 servings.
Try my to-die-for red and black raspberry ice cream here.
Another berry cobbler you may like–blackberry here.
Or perhaps a bumbleberry crisp here.