Les framboises sont prêtes ! – my grandpa still lets me know when his raspberry bushes are ready to be cleaned out by my eager and expert hands. When are you coming to eat the delicious tiny framboises? I wish I could!
Unfortunately for me, he still hasn’t invested in a Star Trek Transporter, which would make things so much easier. Maybe for next Christmas.
This not only brings back memories of picking raspberries in the summer in his garden when school was over but it also makes me long for fresh natural summer berries.
Big and small crates, bowls, baskets, tiny scissors, sunscreen and hats – there is so much pleasure and fun in going to a farm to pick your own fruits.
Just follow the signs on the road. The magic letters are P.Y.O. – Pick Your Own. The process is fairly simple: taste, pick, taste again – just to make sure, continue picking, enjoy, weigh, pay and go.
Americans love their summer and fall food-related activities. It’s a tradition I learned to like because clearly, it’s not in bustling Paris that people think about going to the farm to pick fruits. Or at least, I didn’t.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries and peaches in the summer. Apples, grapes and pears in the fall. And you can pick vegetables too. Right now, beets and tomatoes are plentiful.
Walking through the fields and patches of Russel Orchards before the afternoon crowd arrives, the still quietness of the countryside is only disturbed by the noises of my walking in the grass and the buzzing bumble bees leisurely going from one ripe fruit to the next.
The blueberries and raspberries are the easiest to pick. They come right off the branch. Strawberries are trickier. You don’t pick or pull a strawberry so as not to uproot the entire plant. You use tiny scissors to cut the stem. It’s a long process.
And when you’re a gourmand, like me, it can be daunting.
Currants aren’t as popular in the U.S. as they are in France. I find red currants at the local farmers’ markets along with gooseberries (en français groseillier à maquereau) but I do miss cassis.
So instead of black currants, I settle for black raspberries. Oui, framboise noire ! I had never seen black raspberries before – and certainly not in France. Red/crimson, golden/amber, white raspberries yes. But not black. And black raspberries should not be confused with blackberries – les mûres.
Explanation en français from Ontario.
The fun does not just end in the fields. It continues in the kitchen.
I wish I could post all recipes and pictures of the strawberry-black raspberry clafoutis I made. Or the blueberry-pistachio cake. Or the summer fruit verrines with a strawberry compote. Or the almond paste two-raspberry tart. This also reminds me that I should make a blueberry sorbet.
With all these berries in the house, the kitchen and the fridge smelled of sweet ripe fruits. Cooking them on the stove released a light aroma coating the house with the spirit of summer. And one can never go wrong when mixing them with sugar, butter and flour.
3/4 cup (150 g) of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1.5 cup (250 g) of fresh blueberries
5-6 teaspoons of pistachio paste
1 1/4 cup (120 g) of flour
You can buy the pistachio paste at the store or you can make it yourself very easily with 1/3 cup (60 g) of pistachios, 1/3 cup (45 g) of powdered sugar and 2-3 Tbsp of water. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until very fine. Add the sugar and grind again. Finally, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the mixture and grind until it forms a paste. It is critical to add the Tbsp of water one at a time to make sure the paste is not too liquidy. 2 Tbsp should be enough.
For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
Mix the melted butter with 4 Tbsp of sugar in a bowl. Whisk well.
Add the eggs and mix. Then, the flour, the rest of the sugar (it should about 1/2 cup) and the baking powder. Mix.
Spoon out 5-6 teaspoons of the pistachio paste in the bowl and stir well. The paste will need to dissolve completely.
Add the blueberries and mix delicately.
Grease a rectangular cake pan (I use a French rectangular pan, which is narrower – 11 in. x 4.5 in.) – if you have a wider rectangular cake pan, the cake will be flatter. Pour the dough directly in the pan and bake for 45 min. Keep some pistachio on the side to break them up in bigger pieces and sprinkle on top of the cake slices.
Summer Berry Verrines (serves 4):
A verrine is an appetizer or a dessert layered carefully in a tiny glass. Here, the layers are a strawberry compote, black raspberries and mascarpone with almonds.
12 Tbsp (150 g) of sugar
1/2 Tbsp (7 g) of butter
1 1/4 cup (200 g) of black raspberries
4 oz (115 g) of mascarpone
1 Tbsp of powdered sugar
2 Tbsp of whole almonds
Make the strawberry compote by hulling the strawberries and cutting them in half. Place them in a bowl with 6 Tbsp of sugar. Mix well and let stand for 1 hour until their juices have been released.
In a medium sauce pan, pour the strawberries and add the rest of the sugar (6 Tbsp) and the butter. Cook for 3 min at high heat. Reduce the heat and cook for another 4-6 minutes. Careful: if you cook it too long, it will make a strawberry jam. Leave aside to cool completely.
Whisk the mascarpone with the powdered sugar until soft.
Wash and dry the black raspberries.
Grind the almonds in chunks.
In 4 small glasses, spoon the strawberry compote to create the first layer. Place about 7-9 raspberries on top of the compote to make a second layer. Add a big spoonful of mascarpone over the raspberries and top with almond chunks to finish the third layer.
Serve right away.