Tips on getting the most from fresh raspberries

July 06, 2005|By Bill Daley | Bill Daley,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

It's easy to think of raspberries as the brazen redheads of the berry family. Vividly colored, loudly flavored, raspberries can literally overwhelm - especially if pureed, reduced and sweetened into the sort of sauce that likes hanging around too many bad desserts on restaurant menus.

But Miss Raspberry has a virtuous side. The fresh-picked fruit, still warmed by the sun, has a pure intensity of flavor that needs no adulteration.

Raspberries come in three main varieties - red, golden and black - according to The New Food Lover's Companion, but their flavors are not appreciably different.

The season can run from spring to fall, depending on the variety grown and the region.

When buying raspberries at the grocery store, produce stand or farmers' markets, freshness is the all-important factor, said Paul Maki of Blue Skies Berry Farm in Brooklyn, Wis. Raspberries should have been just picked; Maki said they can get moldy quickly sitting on a refrigerator shelf. Avoid too-soft or bruised berries.

After 11 months of enduring out-of-season or frozen raspberries, why not enjoy these native babies simply as they are: fresh, vibrant, delicious? Eat them as-is in the car on the way home from the market.

The New Food Lover's Companion suggests storing berries in the refrigerator for up to three days, with the berries arranged in a single layer if possible, and rinsing lightly just before serving. If you can't eat them quickly enough, freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then put them into a freezer storage bag.

Consider substituting raspberries for strawberries and spoon atop fresh-baked shortcake. Garnish with whipped cream. Raspberries can be folded into puddings, custards or foams, pureed into sauces, smoothies or souffles, baked into pies or tarts, or frozen into sorbets and ice creams.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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