Despite the drought, 2021 is an excellent black raspberry year at our farm.
For the past two weeks, we’ve picked gallons of the berries, and have barely made a dent in them. I have the scratched arms to prove it.
Picking raspberries, even under the best of conditions, is not for the faint of heart because the canes have sharp, prickly thorns that wreak havoc on uncovered arms. Black raspberry thorns are even more vicious and can tear skin if they brush against it.
Add to that the fact that our raspberries are not in rows, but grow in any un-mowed area of our farm, where birds dropped seeds, and on the edge of our garden, where we dumped the canes when we trimmed them. It’s not hard to figure out why my arms look like I’ve been trying to cuddle a feral cat.
Meanwhile, this season, I’ve lost a shoe in the brambles and fallen into a patch of nettles. My left loafer came off when I was trying to reach for a luscious-looking bunch of berries and I still haven’t found it a week later. A few days ago, I lost my balance when I stumbled over a log hiding in a bunch of bushes and landed in the stinging nettles.
I didn’t let the mishaps stop me, though. The raspberries are too delicious and nutritious to have them go to waste.
According to the Berry Health Network website, the dark pigment of black raspberries gives them one of the highest antioxidant ratings in common fruits and berries.
Black raspberries, which also are rich in ellagic acid, anthocyanins and antioxidants, have been called the “king of berries” because of their superior health benefits. (The berries also can be used as a colorant because of their extremely dark pigment, something I can attest to because my fingers are purple when I’m done picking.)
Besides eating the berries fresh, I’ve made raspberry milk shakes, bars, cobbler, muffins and bread with them. The desserts not only taste wonderful, but they are marbled with a beautiful, deep purple.
Although baking cobblers, muffins and bars is nothing new for me, this is the first time I made raspberry bread. I didn’t even know there was a recipe for it until I asked Ellen the other Sunday what I should make with the raspberries we had just picked and she requested bread. I was surprised that a quick internet search yielded a couple of recipes.
I am sharing below the one I made because the bread was easy to make, tasty and, I think, unique.
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups plus 4 tbs. all-purpose flour, divided
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
*Pinch of salt (optional and to taste)
¼ c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled for a few minutes
1 large egg
*¾ c. buttermilk
¼ c. canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
10 to 12 ounces raspberries (about 2 cups)
*A handful of chocolate chips, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray one 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, add 2 cups plus 2 tbs. flour, sugars, baking soda, salt (if desired), and whisk to combine.
In a medium microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, melt the butter about 45 seconds on high power. Allow butter to cool a few minutes (so the egg doesn’t cook when it’s added).
To the butter, add the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla, and whisk to combine.
Pour wet over dry ingredients and stir just until combined, but don’t overmix. Batter will be somewhat lumpy; don’t try to stir the lumps until they are smooth or the bread will be tough. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the raspberries and 2 tbsp. flour, and toss lightly to combine.
Add the raspberries (and chocolate chips if you like chocolate) to the batter and fold gently to combine.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and pushing it into the corners and sides, if necessary.
Bake the bread for 45 minutes to one hour. The bread is done when the top is set in the middle, slightly domed and springy to the touch, and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
When the bread is done, remove it from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then remove bread from the pan and let it completely cool before slicing. If it’s sliced before cooling, the bread will break apart.
* I used salted butter and omitted the salt.
*I didn’t have buttermilk so I used sour milk, which I made by adding ¾ tsp. vinegar to ¾ cup milk and letting it sit for a few minutes before adding it.
*I love chocolate so I added mini chocolate chips, and the result was fabulous.
Ann Bailey is a Grand Forks Herald reporter who writes a personal column twice each month.